Danijel Subasic is Croatia's hero in penalty-saving shootout win over Denmark
Croatia looked far less convincing against Denmark than they did in any of their group-stage matches, but they still emerged with a 3-2 penalty shootout win after 120 minutes finished with the sides level at 1-1.
After a shocking start that saw both teams concede clumsy goals in the first four minutes of the game, things settled down, and Croatia had just a bit more of the match than Denmark but still found themselves on the brink a couple times against a disciplined opponent. After captain Luka Modric missed a penalty in extra time, it looked as if they were going to bottle it, but they somehow scraped through in the shootout.
Back from the brink. Croatia were dangerously under pressure on a few occasions but managed to recover both from an early shock and from a missed Modric penalty. The comeback is surely a big psychological boost.
Lack of system options in the buildup were evident as defenders often found themselves without proper passing options to start attacks. Croatia relied on little more than improvisation in that segment -- and in some others, too -- for far too long, and Denmark only exposed it.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Hesitated with making subs, and his introduction of Mateo Kovacic didn't do anything for the team. Whatever Zlatko Dalic said at half-time didn't help, either, as Croatia were under more pressure after the break. Persisted with playing Modric higher up, though Croatia had serious problems in playing out of the back, and he would arguably be more useful in a deeper position.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Danijel Subasic, 8 -- Had an incredibly sloppy reaction to concede what was essentially an own goal in the first minute of the match. Showed other minor insecurities but was the absolute hero of the shootout.
DF Sime Vrsaljko, 6 -- Threatening down the flank, crossing and cutting inside, especially in the first half. However, wasn't always where he should be in defence and struggled in defensive transition at times.
DF Domagoj Vida, 7 -- Focused and timely in his interventions, had quite a few important clearances. Played a host of long balls when he had no other solutions in the buildup, gifting the ball to the opposition every time.
DF Dejan Lovren, 6 -- Banged even more long balls than Vida did, some of them even accurate. Good in challenges but looked insecure in some key situations, and the Danes took him out of the game on a couple of occasions, playing the ball behind his back.
DF Ivan Strinic, 6 -- Played a bit more offensively than usual and was decent at that, but struggled all game with trying to contain Denmark's key man, Yussuf Poulsen. Got injured and had to go off before full-time.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- Mostly tidy passing, helped Modric a lot in orchestrating play in midfield. Produced some attacking threats as well, particularly from long distance.
MF Marcelo Brozovic, 6 -- Good in challenges, but rarely provided the much needed bridge from defence and midfield, playing in a position that is not ideal for him. Probably should have been subbed off earlier than he was.
MF Luka Modric, 7 -- As usual, he bossed the midfield and provided killer passes from behind. His pass to Ante Rebic, which led to the penalty, was a thing of true beauty, but when you miss a penalty kick in extra time, a score of seven in our ratings is the most you can get.
FW Ante Rebic, 8 -- By far Croatia's most dangerous attacking player, wreaked havoc on the Denmark defence on more than a couple of occasions. When he gets going, he's extremely hard to stop. A fantastic late break for the penalty.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 7 -- The close-range goal off a rebound was more or less a reflex action, and he was largely anonymous for most of the second half, but he did loads of hard work wrestling with defenders and trying to open up space for others.
FW Ivan Perisic, 5 -- Definitely not his night. Produced several goal attempts, none of them very good; lacked composure in the final third and looked unfocused in key situations.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 5 -- Came on for Brozovic after 71 minutes and mostly just passed the ball to the next man. To be fair, he also injured his shoulder very soon after coming on.
DF Josip Pivaric, 5 -- Replaced the injured Strinic late in normal time and brought an attacking impulse, but he missed a penalty in the shootout.
FW Andrej Kramaric, N/R -- Came on for Perisic in extra time and scored in the shootout.
MF Milan Badelj, N/R -- Replaced Mandzukic in extra time, got to take the first penalty and missed it.
Aleksandar Holiga is an independent football writer based in Zagreb, Croatia. Follow him on Twitter @AlexHoliga