Croatia, Netherlands progress in League of Nations;  France loses

Croatia, Netherlands progress in League of Nations; France loses

PARIS (AP) — Croatia and the Netherlands ended their World Cup warm-up on Sunday by winning their final Nations League games to qualify for next year’s final four tournament.

Croatia topped Group A1 with a 3-1 win over Austria to send the hosts into second place in the Nations League, while the unbeaten Netherlands beat visiting Belgium 1-0 and move into the A4 Group 16. Won by points – six more than Belgium.

Defending League of Nations and World Cup champions France were beaten 2-0 by Denmark but refused to go down after defeat in Austria.

This was the last match of the World Cup qualifying teams before the start of the tournament in Qatar on November 20th of this year. Qatar is in the World Cup group along with Ecuador and Senegal.

France and the Danes will then meet Tunisia and Australia in their group in Qatar.

The World Cup could be the last international tournament for 37-year-old Croatia midfielder Luka Modric, and he is in fine form. Croatia took the lead after six minutes in Vienna when their veteran captain was left unmarked inside the penalty area and headed home.

Austria equalized three minutes later through midfielder Christoph Baumgartner’s header, but second-half goals from forward Marko Levaja and centre-back Dejan Lovren sealed a memorable win for Croatia, who beat Belgium in World Cup group stage. Includes Canada and Morocco.

Denmark remained in second place with 12 points and Croatia after beating the French team 2-0 at home.

Striker Kasper Dolberg put the Danes ahead in the 34th minute and midfielder Andreas Skoff-Olsen made it 2-0 after France’s inexperienced defense failed to deal with a corner and No. 3 goalkeeper Alphonse Areola appeared.

France rallied in the second half but star striker Kylian Mbappe took a one-on-one chance against goalkeeper Kaspel Schmeichel – Dolberg’s club team-mate in Nice – and saved two more efforts in quick succession.

Les Bleus finished third, a point ahead of Austria, but coach Didier Deschamps’ side won just one of their six games and scored just five goals – the fewest in the group.

Belgium had to concede three goals to the Netherlands and lost 1-0, with Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk scoring the only goal after 73 minutes.

Poland won 1-0 in Wales in their other Group A4 game as Robert Lewandowski’s strike partner Karol Swiderski turned provider around the hour mark. Last place was thrown to Wales.

Gareth Bale returned to the starting line-up to earn his 108th cap and the Wales captain headed over the crossbar at the break. It was Wales’ last game before they take part in their first World Cup for 64 years, their first against the United States in Qatar on 21 November.

In the Nations League, the four group winners advance to the Final Four tournament in the Premier League A.

Hungary host Italy on Monday and both teams are fighting for the top spot in Group A3. Hungary need only a draw to advance. Portugal and Spain play each other in Group A2 on Tuesday, with Portugal looking to avoid defeat.

Australia beat New Zealand

Australia completed World Cup training on Sunday with a 2-0 win over New Zealand for their second win over the All Whites in a week.

On an emotional day for the hosts as they bid farewell to captain Winston Reid in front of a crowd of more than 35,000 at Eden Park, football striker Mitchell Duke headed home in the 54th.

Substitute Jason Cummings converted a penalty in the 80th after a stunning run by 18-year-old Garang Cole.

Cowell, signed by Premier League club Newcastle, was the youngest Australian debutant since Harry Cowell in 1996.

The match marked the end of Reid’s All Whites career as the captain retired from international football. The defender is best known for his late goal in New Zealand’s 1–1 draw against Slovakia in the 2010 World Cup opener in South Africa.

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