Domagoj Bradaric popped up to send Croatia through to the last eight at the Young Lions’ expense with a wonderful late goal
England Under-21s came within seconds of a remarkable great escape in the European Championship, only to see a last-minute strike knock them out of the competition.
Aidy Boothroyd’s charges led 2-0 against Croatia going into the final moments of their last group game.
That result would have seen them through to the quarters, but Domagoj Bradaric had other ideas as he sent them crashing out with a stunning goal from distance.
The end for the Young Lions
England went into the last round of matches in Group D needing a minor miracle after tasting defeat in their opening two clashes against Switzerland and Portugal.
In order to progress, the Young Lions were obliged to beat Croatia by a two-goal margin and hope that Portugal beat the Swiss by three goals or more.
Portugal came through with a 3-0 win to record a perfect nine points in the group, while goals from Eberechi Eze and Curtis Jones gave England the required margin to go through.
Bradaric’s 91st minute hit, however, turned the tables in favour of Croatia, who join Portugal in the last eight.
The runners-up, Switzerland and England all finished with three points, but it was the Balkans side who qualified by virtue of their superior goal difference – an advantage of a single goal that would have been in Boothroyd’s charges’ favour were it not for Wednesday’s dramatic finish.
The bigger picture
This latest elimination confirms England’s underwhelming record at U21 in recent years.
They also failed to advance past the group stage in 2019, while five out of their last six campaigns have finished in that phase.
The nation has fared better in other age groups, most notably achieving a double triumph in the U20 World Cup and U19 European Championship back in 2017.