France U21 1-0 Croatia U21: Moussa Dembele gets only goal to book spot in knockout stage and confirm England are OUT after defeat to Romania
- Victory over Croatia saw France confirm England’s exit from the U21 Euros
- Moussa Dembele got the only goal of the game for France with a smart header
- With one game left, both France and Romania have six points and both progress
England’s exit from the Under-21 European Championships was confirmed after Lyon striker Moussa Dembele fired France into the knockout stages.
Dembele’s strike was the only goal of the game but that result means both France and Romania – who beat Aidy Boothroyd’s England side 4-2 earlier in the day – are unable to be caught with one game remaining.
It represents a disastrous campaign for the Young Lions as they are without a point from their opening two games.
Moussa Dembele’s strike ensured England crashed out of the U21 European Championships
The Lyon striker jumped higher than his marker to powerfully head into the back of the net
Dembele (fourth from left) celebrated with his team-mates after scoring the breakthrough goal
France now face a Group decider against Romania while England face a dead rubber against rock-bottom Croatia.
Speaking after the narrow win, France boss Ripoll conceded it was difficult to relax with just one goal separating the two sides.
‘It’s normal to have some fear when we fail to score the second goal and the match is a bit delicate,’ he said.
‘We’re going to play to win [against Romania on matchday three] but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try and balance the team so as not to take undue risks.’
France’s second win ensured their qualification for the semi-finals along with Romania
Croatia goalkeeper Josip Posavec was busy as he was left full stretch to tip over the crossbar
Croatia looked to be proactive in attack as they chased down an equaliser in the match
France manager Sylvain Ripoll kept his emotions in check as he watched on from the side
France captain Lucas Tousart, speaking to UEFA.com, added: ‘It’s a very important win.
‘After the game against England, we were determined to get another victory tonight.
‘We’re happy with the win. We know we could have done better in terms of how we played, but we’re not going to be picky. It’s still a win.’
For Croatia it represents yet another disappointment at the tournament given their history at U21 level is far from encouraging.
Their two most recent appearances in the U21 Euros – in 2000 and 2004 – saw them finish bottom of their groups, drawing one and losing two in both entries.
But given they made it to the finals for the first time in 15 years, manager Nenad Gracan tried to focus on the positives, rather than the negatives, despite their early exit.
The Croatia coach said: ‘It’s a success for us to be back here…