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30 June 1998 Bordeaux - Stade Lescure
Romania Croatia
Croatia deservedly won through to the quarter-finals of France 98 following this 1-0 triumph over a deeply disappointing Romanian side in the Parc Lescure, Bordeaux, this afternoon, thanks to a twice-taken penalty from Davor Suker after 45 minutes. The Croatian hitman made it an incredible 33 goals in 40 games for his country when keeping his nerve to slot home the spot-kick, retaken for encroachment, in first-half stoppage time, to send his side into the last eight to meet Germany in Lyon on Saturday 4 July at 9.00pm. There was little outstanding about the Romanians, other than their ridiculous dyed-yellow hairstyles, as the side who had only been beaten in penalty shoot-outs in the latter stages of the previous two World Cups, went out of this campaign with barely a whimper. Croatian coach Miroslav Blazevic's prediction and dream of a World Cup Final against France is an impossibility as the two are drawn to meet in the semi-finals, if both win their quarter-finals. However, his side have effectively gone about their job so far in the tournament and look an extremely difficult side to beat. An expected tight match soon developed into a refreshingly open contest with early opportunities at either end. First, Adrian Ilie, Romania's revelation in the competition so far, had a shot blocked by Igor Stimac after a good lay-off by Viorel Moldovan, then Croatia's Davor Suker saw a couple of fine efforts saved by Bogdan Stelea. Croatia were by far the more creative and inventive of the two sides, with Krunoslav Jurcic preferred to the disappointing Robert Prosinecki, and Slaven Bilic should have given them the lead on ten minutes, only to send a free header wide from Aljosa Asanovic's right-wing corner. Stelea was again in action four minutes later when producing a superb reflex save to thwart Goran Vlaovic's right-footed shot. Romania were struggling to get the ball to key players Gheorghe Hagi and Ilie, whilst Moldovan, being tightly marked by Dario Simic, was denied service as Bilic and Stimac were totally dominant at the back for Croatia. The 3-5-2 formations of both sides meant a certain amount of stalemate, although the mediocre entertainment was certainly end to end. With the game in desperate need of a flash of ingenuity, it was almost provided by Ilie on 37 minutes, whose superb run, onto Gabriel Popescu's pinpoint pass into the Croatian left-back position, resulted in Drazen Ladic racing off his line to block the striker's goalbound chip. Right on the stroke of half-time the game received a much needed lift when Croatia were awarded a hotly disputed penalty. Suker's dummy allowed Boban's pass to reach Asanovic, but the midfielder crashed to the ground following an innocuous looking challenge from Gabriel Popescu and the Argentinian official immediately pointed to the spot. Davor Suker calmly stepped up to slot home left-footed to Stelea's left, only for the referee to disallow the effort for encroachment by Boban. Nevertheless, the striker scored his third goal of the tournament from the retake, placing his second attempt in exactly the same place, to put his side ahead at the interval. Romania can consider themselves a little unfortunate to have conceded the penalty, but the Parc Lescure had previously witnessed Mexico's comeback from 2-0 down against Belgium and Scotland's comeback from 1-0 down against Norway. However, Anghel Iordanescu's side seldom looked capable of breaking down the Croatian defensive brickwall and their task was made all the more difficult when the ineffective Hagi was substituted on 57 minutes by Gheorghe Craioveanu. Suker had a great chance to settle the contest on 63 minutes when Stelea again denied the hitman after he had superbly danced past Popescu down the right flank, and with Romania pushing men forward in vain, Croatia began to pick them off on the counterattack. A lot of credit should be given to the Croatian defence who had kept a very disappointing Romanian attack at bay. So much so, that in the second half, chasing a one-goal deficit, Iordanescu's side failed to create a single worthy effort on goal, in a woeful attempt at staying in the competition. Indeed a last-minute breakaway almost brought a second Croatian goal, as first Boban and then substitute Krpan, twice, were denied by point-blank saves from the excellent Stelea. At the final whistle justice was done, with the victory going to the Croats, who appeared far more positive and committed than the arrogant Romanians, who no doubt expected to win the match, but instead head home with those silly haircuts, an embarrassing memento of France 98.

(0-1) Suker (45, pen). A pass from Boban was dummied by Suker and when Asanovic went down under a challenge from Gabriel Popescu, the referee was perfectly positioned to award a controversial penalty, the striker fired home the initial spot-kick but had to retake the effort after Boban encroached, however, he made no mistake the second time around, firing home a left-footed strike beyond Ladic's left hand.

 
 
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Page created by Christakis Ioannou on Tuesday, 30 June 1998
 
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