France dethroned after Croatia home defeat


Luka Modric of Croatia and Kylian Mbappe of France fight for possession during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 1 match between France and Croatia at Stade de France on June 13, 2022 in Paris, France.

Defending champions France have lost their Nations League title and face the dim prospect of relegation after losing 1-0 at home to Croatia.

The visitors scored with a fifth-minute penalty from standout midfielder Luka Modric at the Stade de France on Monday night. It is where he played so commandingly for Champions League winners Real Madrid in the final just over two weeks ago, and he belied his advancing years with a display full of astute passing and clever movement into space.

In Copenhagen meanwhile, goals by Jonas Older Wind and Andreas Skov Olsen saw group leaders Denmark beat Austria and boost their Final Four bid.

The Danes have nine points, two more than second-placed Croatia with only the group winner going through. Austria are third with four points and rock-bottom France have two after a fourth game without a win. The team in last place are relegated.

"It was a difficult month of June in terms of results. We did not have the energy and the strength against teams who had more than us," Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps said.

"We lost a bit of self-confidence along the way but it's mostly freshness that we lacked. When you play so many games it is very very hard."

Deschamps finally dropped first-choice forward Antoine Griezmann, who has not scored for the team since early January, and instead selected Christopher Nkunku in attack alongside Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe.

Benzema went close midway through the second half as France found more space and Griezmann received a loud ovation when he came on for the last 10 minutes.

Benzema had an added-time header well saved by goalkeeper Ivica Ivusic as French hopes evaporated.

France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final but the Croats were better on the night against a French side lacking intensity in midfield.

Croatia's fans chanted, "Luka, Luka," to their inspirational captain as he gave them a thumbs up after the game.

In Group B2, leaders Israel twice came from behind to draw in Iceland 2-2.

Kazakhstan took control of Group C3 after beating Slovakia 2-1 at home to move onto 10 points. They're four ahead of the Slovaks in second spot while Azerbaijan beat visiting Belarus 2-0 in the other game.


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