Croatia beat Norway 5-1 as Odegaard becomes youngest player to play in Euro qualifiers
Zagreb, March 29 (IANS) In front of more than 23,000 loud supporters, Croatia beat Norway 5-1 to stay at the top of the table in the Group H of EURO 2016 qualifiers.
For the first time in his career, Real Madrid young prodigy Martin Odegaard was included in Norway's starting 11 on Saturday. On numerous occasions, the 16-year-old was locked in battle with his Real Madrid teammate Croatia's superstar Luka Modric who came out better in this match-up.
In the first 20 minutes, Norway had a few promising attacks but Croatian defenders did not let their opponents to trouble goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic came close to scoring for Croatia in the 20th minute, but his shot from the edge of the left side of the penalty box went just across the crossbar.
Ten minutes later, Brozovic was on target. Hamburger SV forward Ivica Olic, who was playing his 101st match for Croatia left the ball for Brozovic who precisely shot to down left corner from 17 meters and beat Norway goalkeeper Orjan Nyland. This was Brozovic's second goal in this qualifiers.
In the 54th minute, VfL Wolfsburg midfielder Ivan Perisic doubled Croatia's lead after a neat passing of Srna and Rakitic. Perisic got the ball on the right side of the box and shot the ball into the opposite corner of Norway's goal.
After he assisted for Croatia's first goal Ivica Olic scored his 20th international goal in the 66th minute to secure the victory for the home team. In the 69th minute, Vedran Corluka conceded a penalty but Norway forward Tarik Elyounoussi hit the post.
After Corluka received his second yellow card in the 74th minute Croatia has been left with ten men in the field but Norway still went scoreless until 81st minute thanks to some brilliant goalkeeping from Subasic.
However, even Subasic couldn't stop a shot from Alexander Tettey that brought some joy to Norwegian team.
In the 87th minute, Panathinaikos defender Gordon Schildenfeld, who came in the match as a substitute after Corluka has been dismissed, scored his first goal for Croatia in his 22nd international game.
Schildenfeld met nice cross from Srna on the near post to make it 4-1. Schildenfeld's Panathinaikos teammate Danijel Pranjic scored Croatia's fifth goal in the dying seconds of the match.
It was definitely not the result that Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard was looking out for a Euro qualifier match. Odegaard, who has been highly hailed as a footballer by scouts all over the world, hardly had any influence on pitch as he was somewhat bullied by the Croatian players who had the physical and mental advantage over the 16-year-old.
"We feel very bad after such a big defeat," he told reporters following the match. "We were not direct enough, so we didn't create chances. We played well in the first half but much worse in the second. I exchanged jerseys with Luka Modric after the game."
Croatia have 13 points from five matches and lead the Group H while Norway stayed in the third place with nine points. In the 6th round of 2016 Euro qualifiers, Croatia will host Italy on June 12 and on the same day Norway will play against Azerbaijan at home.