Soccer-Croatia seal Nations League semi-final place with win in Austria


Soccer Football - UEFA Nations League - Group A - Austria v Croatia - Ernst Happel Stadium, Vienna, Austria - September 25, 2022 Croatia's Luka Modric in action with Austria's David Alaba REUTERS/Lisa Leutner

VIENNA (Reuters) - Croatia qualified for the Nations League semi-finals next year as defender Dejan Lovren marked his return to the team with a rare goal in a comprehensive 3-1 victory over relegated Austria in Vienna on Sunday.

Lovren, playing his first international in almost a year, scored the third goal for the visitors, who topped League A Group 1 with 13 points from six matches, one point ahead of second-placed Denmark. Austria finished bottom.

Luka Modric gave Croatia an early lead with his 23rd international goal as he took a touch to control Nikola Vlasic’s pass and fired low into the net.

That joy was short-lived as Austria equalised three minutes later when Christoph Baumgartner glanced Marcel Sabitzer's cross into the net with a deft header.

But two goals in three minutes midway through the second period sealed the points for Croatia as Marko Livaja headed home at the back post after a cross from Ivan Perisic, before Lovren was left free by the home defenders to score with a header from Lovro Majer’s cross.

Despite the loss, it was a special night for home forward Marko Arnautovic, who won an Austrian record 104th international cap and moved past Andreas Herzog at the top of the country’s list of most appearances.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)

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