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14 June 1998 Group H Lens - Stade Felix-Bollaert
Jamaica Croatia
This match epitomised what the World Cup is all about as the minnows of the tiny island of Jamaica took on the experienced Croats in a carnival atmosphere in the Stade Felix Bollaert, Lens. The colourful Jamaicans with a team assembled from home-grown players and a mish-mash of club players from the Premiership and Nationwide League, against a Croatian side with players who ply their trade in the best leagues in Europe. Robbie Earle's equalising goal right on the stroke of half-time sent the nation temporarily into dreamland until the coolly efficient Croatians turned the screw to run out comfortable 3-1 winners. The Reggae Boys were far from overawed by the occasion and are determined to enjoy themselves at France 98, but Croatia always appeared capable of stepping up a gear and exposed naivety in the Jamaican defence when Jankovic opened the scoring after 27 minutes from a quickly taken short corner. Robbie Earle's headed equaliser made up for an earlier effort that was cleared off the line as the game went into the interval neatly balanced. Croatia, who never seem to play with any urgency, quietly and effectively applied the pressure after the break as players like Robert Prosinecki, Aljosa Asanovic, Davil Suker and Zvonimir Boban began to show their undoubted pedigree. However, there was an element of good fortune about the second goal scored by their star performer Prosinecki whose attempted cross ended up in the back of the Jamaican net on 53 minutes. Deon Burton immediately had a great chance of the second equaliser but glanced a clear header wide in what proved to be the last attacking foray for his side. Davor Suker put the result beyond any doubt with a shot that took a wicked deflection before beating Barrett and Croatia then took their foot of the gas in the knowledge that once again they had done enough. The result takes them to the top of Group H on goal difference from Argentina and it appears that those two teams will progress to the second stages, but the tournament will still have the pleasure of the Jamaicans company on two further occasions as they continue to make friends wherever they go.

(1-1) Earle (45). Gardener's inviting cross from the left was whipped into the Croatia penalty area where the Wimbledon midfielder timed his run and leap to perfection to send an unstoppable header beyond Ladic's right hand from 12 yards.

(0-1) Stanic (27). The Jamaica defence were caught napping from a short corner and Stimac's right-footed shot crashed down off the crossbar to the feet of the striker who managed to dig the ball out before firing into an empty net from four yards with his right foot.

(1-2) Procinecki (53). He collected a short free-kick on the left and delightfully tricked his way towards the by-line before delivering an intended pacy cross which eluded Barrett in the Jamaica goal and dropped into the far corner.

(1-3) Suker (69). He pulled away superbly to the far post to control Stanic's deep cross on his chest before firing in a left-footed shot from 12 yards which took a cruel deflection off Gardener that wrong-footed Barrett and looped into the net.

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Page created by Christakis Ioannou on Monday, 15 June 1998
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