Euro 2008: Austria 0-1 Croatia
Austria 0-1 Croatia Vienna, 8 June 2008
By Ian Hughes
Modric scored the only goal of a largely uninspiring match
Croatia were forced to hang on against tournament co-hosts Austria to begin their Euro 2008 campaign with a win.
They were gifted what proved to be a fourth-minute winner when Luca Modric drilled home a penalty after Rene Aufhauser clumsily felled Ivica Olic.
Austria's Joachim Standfest headed their best chance wide as they finished the first half in better form.
And after the break Austria's Umit Korkmaz had a stinging shot well saved and Roman Kienast headed narrowly wide.
An equaliser would not have flattered a plucky Austria side who had to dig deep to recover from a terrible opening spell.
Austria went into the game knowing that if they were to rip up the form book and keep the pre-match party going, it was imperative that they got off to a good start.
But instead they quickly reinforced suggestions they would be merely making up the numbers almost as soon as they touched the ball - or not, in the case of Aufhauser.
He bundled Olic over and up stepped Modric to take the spot-kick and his cool finish must have impressed any watching Tottenham fans, who will be seeing him at their club next season.
Quickly it became evident that Austria's players were unlikely to follow Modric to the Premier League, such was the lack of quality in the side ranked 92nd in the world.
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And the one Austrian who does actually ply his trade in England, Middlesbrough's Emanuel Pogatetz, looked nothing like a maestro but every bit his 'Mad Dog' nickname.
After being booked for his protest at the penalty he should have been sent off for virtually assaulting Olic on the half-hour mark.
But despite their obvious superiority Croatia created only one other decent chance, when Mladen Petric blazed over from inside the box, and they began to be complacent towards the end of the half.
And had Austria's giant centre-back Sebastian Prodl or Joachim Standfest been more accurate with free headers they might have snatched an equaliser.
If set-pieces had been Austria's only likely source of success in the first half, they came out after the break looking determined to show they could fashion something in open play.
And the hosts did enjoy more possession but Croatia easily broke up their attacks, which were pedestrian at best.
For 20 minutes, the game was almost at a standstill and then Austria found some impetus and started to dictate the tempo.
Austria, though, are not massive outsiders for nothing and although they forced the pace they failed to really threaten.
They almost made the breakthrough when a swerving shot from Korkmaz was parried by keeper Stipe Pletikosa and at the death, Kienast flicked a header narrowly wide.
But they ultimately paid for having a lack of real quality in the final third.
Yet the same could be said of Croatia, who look far from potential winners of the tournament and appear to have no-one to replace injured striker Eduardo da Silva.