Croatia qualify for Euro 2020 with 3-1 win over Slovakia

The result left the Croatians on 17 points from eight games as they completed their campaign, with three sides behind them still in contention for next year`s 24-nation tournament.

Croatia qualify for Euro 2020 with 3-1 win over Slovakia
Image Credits: Twitter/@UEFAEURO

Croatia qualified for Euro 2020 after second-half goals from Nikola Vlasic, Bruno Petkovic and Ivan Perisic inspired a comeback 3-1 home win over Slovakia in a pulsating Group E qualifier on Saturday.

The result left the Croatians on 17 points from eight games as they completed their campaign, with three sides behind them still in contention for next year`s 24-nation tournament.

Second-placed Hungary (12 points) visit third-placed Wales (11 points) on Tuesday in a dogfight for a top-two finish where a win would see either through.

A draw, however, could allow fourth-placed Slovakia (10 points), who are at home to bottom team Azerbaijan in their final game, to squeeze through as they have a better head-to-head record against the Hungarians.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, who guided them to a runners-up finish at the 2018 World Cup, was delighted.

"I am proud and I congratulate the players for winning the group and qualifying," he said.

"I wasn`t worried when we fell behind because we were playing well and it was much easier after we equalised.

"All credit to the fans too who turned up in numbers and I hope we will bring more joy to Croatia in the European Championship."

Petkovic added: "We vowed not to lose our heads if we conceded first and managed to turn it around because we kept our composure. This young team has a very good chemistry."

Croatia squandered a flurry of first-half chances and were punished in the 32nd minute when Robert Bozenik turned in a Stanislav Lobotka cross from the left.

Bozenik almost doubled Slovakia`s lead as Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic just managed to tip over the 19-year-old striker`s ferocious drive from the edge of the penalty area.

Yet that was as good as it got for Slovakia on a rainy night in the coastal city of Rijeka, as Croatia turned the tide with a fierce second-half onslaught.

Vlasic equalised in the 56th minute with a low drive from 20 metres and Petkovic fired Croatia ahead four minutes later when he powered an unstoppable header into the top corner after Luka Modric swung in an inch-perfect corner.

Slovakia had winger Robert Mak sent off in the 66th minute for a second bookable foul before Perisic added the third for the home side, volleying home a Borna Barisic assist to delight a packed home crowd in Rujevica stadium.

Slovakia keeper Martin Dubravka spared Slovakia a heavier defeat with several fine saves in the closing stages.