Sport » Championships
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Croatia shocks Germany with 2-1 win

All is going according to Croatia's dream plans: it secured a spot in the quarterfinals of the European Championships by shocking favorite Germany, and avoided playing Portugal in the last eight of the 16-nation tournament.

Now, Croatia coach Slaven Bilic is no longer hiding his ambitions.

"The title? Why not," he said after his team beat three-time champion Germany 2-1 Thursday in what is the tournament's biggest upset so far.

After a 1-1 draw between co-host Austria and Poland in the other Group B match, Croatia will play Poland next Monday in a game that has no meaning for the Balkan team. Germany needs at least a draw with Austria to qualify for the quarterfinals as the group's second-placed finisher.

Because of the results, Croatia had avoided playing the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal in the last eight, and will face either the Czech Republic or Turkey in the quarterfinals.

"The Czechs would suit us just fine," Croatia midfielder Luka Modric said. "But, it really doesn't matter who we play if we perform like against Germany."

Led by Modric's superior passing skills, the Croatian midfield controlled the match against the Germans, allowing them few chances and driving their attackers to despair.

"We really played a phenomenal match. We showed our strength against the mighty Germany," said Modric, who at the final whistle collapsed to the grass before hugging his teammates and Bilic.

Darijo Srna gave Croatia a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute, sweeping the ball past goalkeeper Jens Lehmann on Danijel Pranjic's left-wing cross. The Croats then closed ranks in defense to launch counterattacks, which paid off when Ivica Olic scored on a rebound from the post in the 63rd.

Germany midfielder Lukas Podolski managed to pull a goal back in the 79th, but the three-time champions never looked like earning a draw.

"This was a perfect game for us," Srna said. "We kept the ball as long as we could, we made a lot of passes preventing them possession. Now, we have to celebrate and rest."

Bilic compared the victory to Croatia's 3-0 win over the Germans in the 1998 World Cup quarterfinals, which had been its most impressive since splitting from Yugoslavia in 1992. Croatia went on to place third at the World Cup in France.

"There is a lot of similarities between this victory and the one in 1998," said Bilic, who played in that match. "We were playing for the love of our country in 1998, as we did today. The emotions were identical."

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