Two subs, two goals. Another late late show. A dramatic finale. No, it’s not another match report on the England v Wales game. This time it was the Czech Republic manager making the prescient substitutions to help his team gain an improbable and not entirely deserved draw. Croatia had dominated the match, storming to a 2-0 lead, and were in cruise control. They looked for all the world like they were going to become the first team at this tournament to score three goals, yet by the end they were hanging on for dear life to salvage a draw.
The extraordinary turnaround started when Croatia’s talisman and star playmaker Luka Modric trudged off with an injury in the 62nd minute. 13 minutes later Czech super sub No 1 Milan Skoda scored with a super header to make it 2-1. But Croatia were holding on comfortably, until their own fans decided to shoot their team in the foot right at the end. First, they threw flares onto the pitch, one of which exploded in the face of their own player and goal scorer Ivan Perisic, who had gone over with his teammates to try and placate the fans. Then they started fighting amongst themselves, ignoring the desperate pleas from their own players. The unsavoury scenes seemed to spook the Croatian players. From the restart, they were under pressure and one of their defenders suddenly had a brain freeze moment in the 93rd minute, doing a Diego Maradona and punching the ball rather than trying to head it away from the Czech attacker in the penalty area. Unfortunately for him, the eagle eyes of English referee Mark Clattenburg spotted the infringement and awarded a penalty. Step up super sub No 2 Tomas Necid, who hit the penalty with aplomb to earn the Czech Republic an unlikely point.
Croatia will be ruing all the chances they missed as they will now probably need to get a result against Spain to be certain of qualification. To add to their woes, UEFA will be investigating the crowd trouble and could hand Croatia the same suspended disqualification as Russia. To further compound Croatia’s misery, Luka Modric is reportedly out of the Spain game. In the space of 20 minutes, Croatia went from the team most likely to a team teetering on the brink of expulsion. Such are the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.