Euro 2016 round up: Czech Republic 2 Croatia 2 - and what the result means

Ivan Rakitic (centre) of Croatia celebrates after scoring the 2-0 lead.
Ivan Rakitic (centre) of Croatia celebrates after scoring the 2-0 lead.PHOTO: EPA

At a time of great tragedy in the Croatia camp, this draw must have felt like a loss.

It has been a brutal period for Ante Cacic's men. Captain Darijo Srna's dad, Uzeir, died after their opening group game win over Turkey on Sunday. Goalkeeping coach Marjan Mrmic's  father died two days later.

Just when it seemed like there was some solace from the field, football provided even more heartbreak.

Croatia had been cruising at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Etienne. Midfielder Ivan Perisic gave them a well-deserved lead in the 37th minute, when his angled drive found the bottom corner.

Twelve minutes into the second half, the Czech Republic looked like they had one foot out of Euro 2016. Midfielder Ivan Rakitic beat the offside trap, then goalkeeper Petr Cech, and there seemed no way back for the Czechs.

But changes by Pavel Vrba turned the game around. Milan Skoda equalised with a looping header in the 76th minute, before fellow substitute secured a point from the penalty spot.

In between those goals, flares were thrown on the pitch. Perhaps Croatia, already with tired minds, lost their concentration. One thing is certain - it was not the result Srna, 34, was looking for.

"Everything that he did in his life was for me to win matches with the Croatian football team," the right-back told reporters pre-match on his decision to return to France.

Uzeir's last wish was that his son would play on in what would be his final tournament before international retirement. Victory for Croatia would have been a more fitting distraction.

Match highlights

- Striker Mario Mandzukic surged forward on the counter in the 21st-minute. He delivered a ball across the six-yard box but Perisic, on the stretch, could not connect.

- Nine minutes later, Croatia turn defence into attack again. Defender Vedran Corluka found Ivan Rakitic, who broke through the middle. He laid the ball for Mandzukic, whose shot was blocked.

- In the 37th minute, Milan Badelj won the ball back on the half-way line and fed Perisic. The Inter Milan man attacked the space in front of him, isolated a defender, executed a couple of stepovers, and fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

 
 

- Three minutes before half-time, Croatia won a free-kick on the right flank, which Rakitic took. Corluka and Domagoj Vida got in each other's way and Corluka ended up slicing his shot wide.

- The Czechs got their first shot on target in the 52nd minute. But Ladislav Krecji's overhead kick was comfortably caught by Danijel Subasic.

- Seven minutes later, Croatia double their advantage. Roman Hubnik lost the ball to Marcelo Brozovic in his own half. The Croatia midfielder sent Rakitic through on goal, and the Barcelona midfielder dinked the ball over an onrushing Cech.

- In the 66th minute, Brozovic put a ball into the box. Tomas Sivok's attempted clearance found Mandzukic, who blazed over.

- Ten minutes later, Tomas Rosicky's cross was met by Milan Skoda. The substitute looped a header past Subasic.

- In the fourth minute of added time, the Czech Republic were awarded a penalty following a handball by Vida. Substitute Tomas Necid stepped up and blasted the ball centrally into the roof of the net.

The talking point

Should Cacic have taken Luka Modric off? Once Croatia went 2-0 up, Modric was replaced by fellow Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic. Whether Modric was injured is unclear. But Croatia lost control after he went off the pitch. He had been bossing midfield alongside Rakitic up till that point. Comparisons can be drawn with Russia's late comeback against England, after the Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson hooked Wayne Rooney off.

Man of the Match

Rakitic, who was at the heart of most of Croatia's attacking play. He pulled the strings in the middle of the park and scored a goal. He created five chances for his team-mates and completed 15 passes in the final third.

What the result means

With four points on the board, Croatia will probably feel they have done enough to be among the four best third-placed teams - at the very least. They can still end up topping Group D with a win over holders Spain on Tuesday. The difference between top and third is stark. The former will get a date with a third-placed team from either Group B, E, or F. The latter will face either the winner of Group A or B, which as things stand, represent hosts France or England.

Key statistic

Eleven different substitutes have accounted for 11 of the tournament's 39 goals so far.

What they said

Srna: "Unfortunately we didn't keep our focus after playing really well for the first 60 minutes. What's done is done. We didn't lose and we still have another game to play."

Skoda on his goal: "This goal helped very much and after that we pushed for an equaliser and we were successful. It is a very important point because we were losing."