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Croatia 2 England 4

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21 June 2004 | ©football365.com

Wayne Rooney struck a superb brace as England beat Croatia 4-2 to reach Euro 2004 quarter-finals.

Paul Scholes broke his three-year goal drought by pulling England level on 40 minutes after Nico Kovac had given Croatia a fifth-minute lead.

Rooney then underlined his growing reputation by putting England ahead with the last kick of the first half before adding his second and England's third midway through the second half.

Igor Tudor pulled one back for Croatia, only for Frank Lampard to restore England's two-goal advantage with his second goal of the tournament.

England will face hosts Portugal in the quarter-finals while group B winners France will play Greece.

England were unchanged from the side that beat Switzerland 3-0 on Thursday, and were further boosted by the recovery of Owen Hargreaves, who recovered from a stomach upset to take his place on the substitutes' bench.

A place in the quarter-finals was the prize at stake, with England looking for a point to be guaranteed of progress, while the Croats needed to win to progress to the next round.

All the talk before the clash revolved around England's teenage sensation Rooney, and his exploits at the tournament so far.

But it was his strike partner Michael Owen, who made good early progress on the right before sending in a cross, which Robert Kovac did well to get a touch to and prevent from reaching the head of the advancing Scholes.

But despite the early pressure by England, it was Croatia who would take the lead after fives minutes.

David Beckham conceded a free-kick on the right for a foul on Milan Rapaic, whose resulting delivery was unwittingly knocked back at David James by Ashley Cole from four yards.

The England goalkeeper could only parry straight back into a congested box and Nico Kovac reacted quicker than John Terry to steer the ball home.

Scholes then spurned a glorious opportunity to draw England level moments later.

After latching onto a ball over the top, the midfielder failed to get enough purchase on his shot, but still managed to force Tomislav Butina into an excellent save.

England were monopolising possession while Croatia were happy to sit back and invite their opponents to attack.

Ashley Cole buccaneered down the left before crossing into the box but Rooney unsuccessfully opted to control when a first-time shot would have been the right option.

England had another decent opportunity to pull level after 27 minutes after Tudor fouled Rooney on the edge of the box, but Beckham blasted his effort straight into the Croatian wall.

Rooney then had a tame header easily fielded by Butina before Dado Prso forced a comfortable save out of James with a shot from just outside the box.

England were then rewarded for their dominance when Scholes ghosted in to head home a flicked header by Rooney for his first goal in three years.

Scholes returned the favour five minutes later, when after receiving a pass from Owen, the Manchester United midfielder off-loaded to Rooney.

The Everton forward needed no second invitation - lashing his shot into the far corner despite Butina getting a touch to the ball.

Croatia signalled their attacking intentions at the start of the second half when they swapped striker Ivica Mornar for Robert Kovac at the start of the second half.

Scholes then tested Butina with two well-struck efforts in quick succession in the opening four minutes of the half as England made the brighter start.

Owen should have extended England's lead after 54 minutes as England looked to turn defence into attack.

Sol Campbell stopped Prso dead in his tracks with a well-timed challenge on the edge of the box before Cole released Owen with a long punt down field.

The Liverpool forward raced clear on goal, but his lob from 25 yards out sailed over the bar.

Ivica Olic then replaced Rapaic and almost made an instant impact when he raced clear on the left, but his inviting cross into the box found no takers.

Owen turned provider after 68 minutes when he slipped a subtle pass through to Rooney, who raced clear and defeated Butina with a well-placed right-footed effort.

Ledley King then replaced Scholes as England shored up their defence, while Darius Vassell came on for two-goal hero Rooney.

Croatia set up a barnstorming finish when they pulled one back with 17 minutes to play.

Cole conceded a free-kick on the right for a foul on Dario Srna, whose resultant free-kick was headed home by Tudor from six yards.

Frank Lampard restored England's two-goal lead on 79 minutes with a left-footed effort from the edge of the box before giving way to Phil Neville for the Manchester United man to make his first appearance at the tournament.

James then denied Prso with a brilliant diving save right at the death as Sven-Goran Eriksson's men held on for a deserved win.



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