This was an extremely disappointing and frustrating night for England at Wembley. After being thrown a life-line by Israel and Macedonia last weekend where their wins in their matches meant that England only required a draw tonight, England threw away their chance of qualifying for Euro 2008 in dramatic fashion. Defeat was not alone down to a bizarre mistake by Scott Carson which gifted Croatia with their first goal. England just did not play to their potential and have failed to perform and live up to their star status during the qualifying campaign over the last sixteen months.
On a wet night in London it seemed unreal that England were a goal down so early in the match. Krancjar had a dipping shot from about 30 yards in the 8th minute, which bobbled up in front of Carson as he went to collect the shot and it went into England's net. It was a laughable error, which hopefully will not haunt the young goalkeeper. Carson was in the starting line-up for the first time in a competitive match, replacing Paul Robinson who did not even have a place on the bench tonight.
The night went from bad to worse in the fourteenth minute when Da Silva Eduardo made a run at England's defence. He played the ball through the England players and into the path of Olic who guided the ball past Carson to put the visitors two goals ahead. What a disaster, but all was not lost as the scoreline in the Russia match was 0-0 and England could still qualify if the draw was to become a result.
The start of the second half brought two changes for England, the most influential substitution was none other than former England captain, David Beckham. Simunic was judged to have pulled Defoe in the 56th minute and Lampard put away the awarded penalty kick. This goal gave England hope, but they needed another goal in order not to rely on Russia's result. The home side's second goal came curtesy of David Beckham who delivered a superb cross to Crouch, which the Liverpool forward chested down and hit into Croatia's net. With the game now level fans could just hope that England could keep the scoreline at 2-2.
Croatia didn't get the message that 2-2 was just fine for England tonight, especially now Russia were beating Andorra 1-0. They continued to press England and came up with a third goal in the 77th minute when Petric hit a shot from 25 yards. This goal put an end to England's hope of going to Austria and Switzerland next summer, and it was confirmed that England would miss out on a major championship for the first time in 14 years when news came through that Russia had beaten Andorra.
England should never have been in this position in the first place and should have had their place in the Euro 2008 finals wrapped up before going into the last qualifying game needing a draw, or for Andorra to beat Russia. It will be strange not having England in Euro 2008 next summer but it's something the England team and it's fans will unfortunately have to get used to. Steve McClaren is vowing to continue in his job as coach of the England team, but the FA are holding an emergency meeting in the morning to discuss his future. You have to think that it's not looking good for McClaren.
Post-game note: Both Steve McClaren and assistant coach, Terry Venables, were relieved of their England jobs on Thursday 22 November. The betting is now on as to who will replace McClaren. McClaren holds the shortest tenure for a full-time England coach.
Carson #1, Bridge #3, Campbell #6, Lescott #5, Richards #2, Barry #7 (Defoe 46 mins - #16), J Cole #11 (Bent 80 mins - #18), Gerrard #4 - Captain, Lampard #8, Wright-Phillips #10 (Beckham 46 mins - #17), Crouch #9.
Subs Not Used: James #13, Brown #14, A Cole #12, Hargreaves #15. (Full Squad)
Pletikosa #1, Corluka #5, R Kovac #4, Simic #2, Simunic #3, N Kovac #10, Kranjcar #19 (Pranjic 75 mins - #24), Modric #14, Srna #11, Da Silva Eduardo #22 (Petric 69 mins - #21), Olic #18 (Rakitic 84 mins - #7).
Subs Not Used: Runje #23, Knezevic #13, Babic #8, Leko #16.
England Goals: Lampard (56 mins - pen), Crouch (65 mins)
Croatia Goals: Kranjcar (8 mins), Olic (14 mins), Petric (77 mins)
England Cautions: None
Croatia Cautions: R Kovac (32 mins), Da Silva Eduardo (50 mins)
Referee: Peter Frojdfeldt (Sweden)