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Croatia beats Germany; Austria and Poland tie

June 13, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Three-time winner Germany's march toward a fourth European Championship ran into a Croatian roadblock Thursday, while Poland self-destructed in the final minute of injury time against tournament co-host Austria.

Meanwhile, when Euro 2008 continues today in Switzerland, world champion Italy faces the prospect of being run off the road altogether, and France is not in much better shape.

The Italians suffered a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the Netherlands in their opening game, and unless they can rebound and gain three points against Romania, they face a good chance of being eliminated in the first round.

With that in mind, Italy Coach Roberto Donadoni has restored striker Alessandro del Piero to the starting lineup, and the Juventus veteran also will be Italy's captain, taking over from goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

"We need the best game we can possibly get, and that applies to everyone," Donadoni said. "We won't get 100% from Del Piero if we don't get 100% from everyone else.

"The Romanians are going to make it hard for us, so we have to have charismatic players on the pitch."

France, which was anything but charismatic in its opening 0-0 tie with Romania, will find a rampant Dutch team facing it for its game in Bern. The Netherlands was bolstered Thursday by the news winger Arjen Robben had recovered from injury and was available to add even more firepower to an already potent attack.

The Germans could have done with some offensive flair Thursday but were curiously flat in their 2-1 loss to Croatia in Klagenfurt, Austria.

Croatia's second victory at Euro 2008 means that Coach Slaven Bilic's team needs only a tie against Poland on Monday to secure a place in the quarterfinals. Even a loss would see the Croats through if Germany defeats Austria that same day.

Bilic was a starter on the Croatia team that knocked Germany out in the quarterfinals of the 1998 World Cup in France, and the lessons learned there paid off.

Poland, meanwhile, had three points in the bag in Vienna and was leading Austria, 1-0, with only seconds to play when it yielded a penalty kick that allowed Austria to tie and thus keep both teams mathematically alive.

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Jones reported from Los Angeles.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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