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11 July 1998 Paris - Parc de Princes
Netherlands Croatia
Croatia take third place in France 98 following this smash-and-grab 2-1 raid against Holland in this unnecessary play-off for the losing semi-finalists in the Parc des Princes, Paris. Breakaway goals from Robert Prosinecki and Davor Suker sandwiched Boudewijn Zenden's excellent strike, with the only significant memory of this game expected to be Suker's sixth goal of the tournament which could well see him become the winner of the Golden Boot award for leading scorer in the competition. Sepp Blatter has indicated that this may well be the last occasion that the two sides who suffer the anxiety and heartbreak of failure in making it to the World Cup Final, will meet in a contest for who comes third or fourth. A match such as this is always going to be difficult for both sets of players, and especially the coaches, who must try to lift the spirits in their distraught camps. Whilst Croatia can feel delighted to have got so far and would see any further success as an added bonus, the Dutch will certainly feel that they should and could have won the tournament after some of the football they played in the earlier rounds. Not surprisingly Croatia's Slaven Bilic was booed every time he touched the ball, following his participation in the controversial sending off of Laurent Blanc and the bad taste that incident had left with both the French public and the neutrals. The Dutch were by far the more positive and creative of the two sides in the early exchanges with Philip Cocu and Patrick Kluivert going close, however, it was the Croatians, playing Suker in a lone striking role, who opened the scoring with a text-book goal on the counterattack. Suker played in Jarni down the right and Prosinecki was the only Croat arriving in the box to receive his pass, yet somehow managed to screw home a 13th-minute shot totally against the run of play. The Dutch responded with a continuous spell of all-out attacking football as Wim Jonk struck two attempts inches over and Kluivert saw a great opportunity smothered by Drazen Ladic, before Zenden deservedly levelled the scoring with a scorching, swerving drive on 21 minutes. With Suker tied on five goals before this match along with Batistuta and Vieri in pursuit of the Golden Boot, the Croatian hitman was desperate to get his name on the scoresheet and selfishly looked to shoot at every conceivable opportunity. On 36 minutes the hitman scored his sixth of the tournament following another devastating breakaway involving Prosinecki, Asanovic and Boban. The ball was finally worked out to Suker just inside the left edge of the area and from then on there was only going to be one outcome, as the trusty left foot swept home a wonderful shot to nestle in van der Sar's bottom left-hand corner. Croatia were playing classic counterattacking football as Holland threw so many men forward, which made for great first-half entertainment for the 45,500 crowd who could have expected to see a drab, unthrilling encounter. Guus Hiddink, who looks set to leave Holland after the World Cup for Real Madrid, sent on Marc Overmars for the second half in place of Cocu in an attempt to instil a little more pace to his attack. Immediately the Arsenal winger's speed and quick feet looked capable of causing problems down the Dutch left as Stanic and Zenden worked together to double up on the menace of Overmars. However, the match disappointingly disintegrated into a scrappy, disjointed affair with the Croatians making no attempt whatsoever to go forward and Holland struggled to break down a nine-man defence. Pierre van Hooijdonk replaced the unusually quiet Bergkamp just before the hour mark but the Dutch were sadly devoid of creativity in the final third. Indeed it was Croatia who went closest to scoring again when Suker was inches away from putting the finishing touch to Prosinecki's free-kick that was whipped across the face of goal. Holland had scored late goals in their last three matches and threw everything at Croatia in an attempt to recreate that feat. Ladic magnificently blocked an effort from Overmars and Kluivert screwed a great chance wide, before Seedorf looked certain to equalise, only to see his mishit volley superbly saved by Ladic's outstretched left leg. Edgar Davids picked up a late booking and so misses the first match of Euro 2000, which will be the next competitive game that Holland play, as they co-host that tournament with neighbours Belgium and therefore qualify automatically. The result means that Croatia pick up the medals for their fantastic third-place achievements whilst the Dutch, who on occasions played some of the best football in France 98, will look back at their semi-final against Brazil and rue the missed chances and their penalty shoot-out agony.

(1-1) Zenden (21). He received the ball from Jonk 40 yards from goal on the right and attacked the Croatian defence with his direct running, taking on and beating Jarni, he was forced across the pitch and as he neared the edge of the 'D' he let fly with the outside of his left boot, delivering a wondrous swerving 24-yard shot high into the net which wrong-footed Drazen Ladic, although the 'keeper managed to get his fingertips to the ball.

(0-1) Prosinecki (13). Suker released Jarni who broke down the the left flank before being pegged back on the edge of the penalty area by Stam, he waited for support and then laid the ball across the face of goal to Robert Prosinecki, the Croatian midfielder had to swivel 360 degrees before cutting back a low right-footed shot through the legs of Numan and beyond the right side of Dutch 'keeper Edwin van de Sar from nine yards.

(1-2) Suker (36). A swift Croatian counterattack saw Prosinecki set free Asanovic who did well to hold play up on the right before passing to Boban, the skipper's first-time lay-off across the left edge of the area into the path of the star striker, was magnificently rifled home low with the outside of his left foot, through the legs of Stam and just inside van der Sar's left-hand post from 16 yards.

 
 
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