World Cup: Suker ensures Croatia spoil the Japanese party

Japan 0 Croatia 1 Suker 77 Att: 39,000

THE GOOD people of Nantes are enjoying the World Cup. The three games here so far have had good football and a cracking atmosphere.

Nantes is where the Loire flows into the Atlantic, where Jacques Cousteau was born and, most importantly, where Didier Deschamps and Marcel Desailly started out before emigrating to Italy via Marseilles to find fame and fortune. It is also where Miroslav Blazevic, Croatia's coach, spent three years in charge of the local team around the turn of the decade and Saturday's victory over Japan, which all but ensured his country's qualification for the second round at their first attempt, represented a satisfying return to the region for Blazevic.

"I am very proud to see Croatia among the first teams to qualify," he managed to say at the post-match press conference before politics, sadly, tarnished the moment. Someone from the Croat embassy in Paris walked uninvited on to the stage to complain that the woman interpreting for Blazevic spoke with a Serbian accent. Fortunately, common sense soon prevailed after a Fifa spokesman ruled the interloper offside.

The Japanese were roared on by a massive following who had happily handed over an average of pounds 500 per black-market ticket - "just wait till the French come to Japan," one was reported to have said - and, with a ticker- tape welcome for the teams and shrieks of hysteria just about every time they attacked, it all made for quite a party.

Predictably it was Davor Suker who proved to be the difference between the two sides despite the best endeavours of Hidetoshi Nakata, the 21- year-old midfield player whose dyed red hair was not the only thing that set him apart from his team-mates. The Japanese gave as good as they got from a below-par Croatia side, who were clearly feeling the effects of the heat-wave more than their opponents. Suker apparently lost more than eight pounds in weight during the course of the match, but as far as his team-mates were concerned it was well worth the sweat.

Standing in as captain for the injured Zvonimir Boban, Suker was on the end of nearly all of Croatia's chances. There were three near-misses for the Real Madrid striker in the first half and he hit the bar with an impudent chip early in the second before he found the net. Aljosa Asanovic picked out Suker with an accurate cross, which was converted with the minimum of fuss.

JAPAN (3-5-2): Kawaguchi (Yokohama Marinos); Akita (Kashima Antlers), Ihara (Yokohama Marinos), Nakanishi (Jef Utd Ichihara); Narahashi (Kashima Antlers), Yamaguchi (Yokohama Flugels), Nakata (Bellmare Hiratsuka), Nanami (Jubilo Iwata), Soma (Kashima Antlers); Nakayama (Jubilo Iwata), Jo (Yokohama Marinos). Substitutes: Okano (Urawa Red Diamonds) for Nakayama, 61; Morishima (Cerezo Osaka) for Narahashi, 79; Lopes (Bellmare Hiratsuka) for Nanami, 84.

CROATIA (3-5-2): Ladic (Croatia Zagreb); Bilic (Everton), Soldo (VfB Stuttgart), Stimac (Derby County); Simic (Croatia Zagreb), Asanovic (Napoli), Jurcic (Croatia Zagreb), Prosinecki (Croatia Zagreb), Jarni (Real Betis); Suker (Real Madrid), Stanic (Parma). Substitutes: Vlaovic (Valencia) for Stimac, h-t; Maric (Croatia Zagreb) for Prosinecki, 67; Tudor (Hajduk Split) for Stanic, 88.

Referee: R Ramdhan (Trinidad).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory