Croatia have the chance to win first major trophy after reaching the Nations League final. Modric, 37-yearsyoung calls the shots as Croatia beat Netherlands to reach final. Zlatko Dalic’s side, inspired by captain Luka Modric, won a thrilling semifinal against hosts the Netherlands 4-2 in extra time on Wednesday. Italy and Spain face each other on Thursday for a chance to take on Croatia in Sunday’s final.

The biennial international, contested by European nations, is into its third iteration, with France the current holders and Portugal the inaugural winners Croatia scored twice in extra time to beat the Netherlands 4-2 in their Nations League semifinal in Rotterdam on Wednesday and advance to Sunday’s decider.

Substitute Bruno Petkovic curled home a stunning shot from the edge of the penalty area eaight minutes into extra time to put them on their way and Luka Modric made sure of Croatia’s triumph with late penalty, their second of the game.

The Netherlands first goal came against the run of play, but at end of a swift series of passes that saw both quick feet and precise thinking. Cody Gakpo set it up by winning possession and five passes later, Mats Wieffer teed up an unmarked Malen to fire home. But it was street smarts of Croatia captain Modric that got them level, stealing the ball in the Dutch penalty area from Gakpo, whose instinctive reaction was to tug at the 37 year old veteran who went tumbling to the ground to win a penalty. The Dutch forced the game into extra time at 2-2 Parity, however, did not last long. Modric’s pass put Petkovic through on goal and he curled the ball into the net with a shot worthy of winning any cup tie. Modric completed the win with the late spot kick to seal another outstanding individual performance.


Lionel Messi delighted Argentina fans in Beijing when he scored the fastest goal of his international career, netting after 79 seconds as the world champions beat Australia 2-0 in a friendly at a raucous Workers Stadium on Thursday. Fans immediately got their money’s worth when Argentina won the ball in Australia’s half in the second minute and Enzo Fernandez found Messi, who side stepped two defenders before beating the keeper with a curling shot from outside the box. Messi has now scored in seven straight games for Argentina “It was complicated to play because of the heat and humidity,” said Messi. “But we continued with the same idea.”


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