A simple 1-0 win was all that England wanted from their final match against Czech Republic. They got what they wanted only at minute 12 of the match via Raheem Sterling, and it was then only a matter of managing the game to confirm their first-place finish in Group D of the Euros.
Croatia and Scotland were dealt a harder hand however, with each side depending on a Czech Republic or England loss (respectively) to have any hopes of getting a second-place spot while also having to beat the team on the other side of the half. And Croatia had everything falling in the right place for them, first with Czech Republic losing their match against England and then beating Scotland 3-1 to surpass the former with a better record of goals scored in their favour.
With a draw, both Czech Republic and England would make to Euro’s knockout stage as first- and second-placed teams from Group D. But this was clearly not enough for the Englishmen, who started the match by firing on all cylinders to try getting a goal as soon as possible.
After Raheem Sterling nearly scored his second goal in the tournament only two minutes after kickoff, the Manchester City player would get another chance again after a scramble in the 18-year box from Jack Grealish’s cross. The ball went completely over goalkeeper Tomás Vaclik and fell to Sterling, who needed a simple header to open the scoring for the English Team.
From that point on it was all a matter of controlling the match and let Czech Republic frustrate themselves with a good defensive shift and their own lack of quality in possession. In fact the visitors at Wembley would fail to try a single shot from the 35th to the 83rd minute of the match, thus making it much easier for England to keep the lead and secure a first-place finish in their group.
Hopes of a second-place finish for either Croatia or Scotland hinged on defeating each other and hoping for a big win on the other side of the group. But Scotland’s home advantage might have given an early edge to the hosts, who started the match in seemingly better shape than the visitors.
Scotland were unable to profit from their initial drive however, and Croatia would punish them on the first chance they would get. A cross from Josip Juranovic was reached by Ivan Perisic in the box and put in the path of an alert Nikola Vlasic. While it was not the most powerful nor technical shot he could give, it was enough to beat shot-stopper David Marshall and put Croatia ahead of Scotland in this final group match.
Scotland would not give up that easily, even though they would end up inviting a bit more of danger from Croatia. However the payoff would eventually come via Callum McGregor, with an attempt from 20 yards out beating Dominik Livakovic to the Scottish favour.
Scotland would come to second half with a lot of energy to get the comeback win. But Croatia were still dominating possession and chances thanks to great midfield work from Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric, all making it all impossible for the Vatreni to lose sight — and control — of the match.
And Modric would soon show why he is still one of the world’s best in his position. A roll from Kovacic to the veteran Real Madrid midfielder at the edge of the box turns into a powerful long-range strike to put Croatia back in the lead.
Croatia needed either another goal against Scotland or England doubling their lead over Czech Republic to take over the second place spot in Group D. Maybe they heard how England were not too keen on offering a helping hand in this regard, and they decided to take matter into their own hands via Perisic on a Modric corner kick to add a third to the Croatians in Glasgow.
Unfortunate for Scotland, who were unable to get themselves in the Euro knockout phase for the first time in their history; but great for Croatia, who might be able to surpass their previous best result in the competition if they reach the semifinal stage this year.