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Croatia Wins the Battle of the Newcomers, 3-1

By Brian Trusdell
Associated Press
Sunday, June 14, 1998; 5:12 p.m. EDT




LENS, France — In their World Cup debuts, Croatia had far too much for Jamaica.

Robert Prosinecki curled in a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area in the 53rd minute, breaking a 1-1 tie and leading Croatia to a 3-1 victory over lightly regarded Jamaica on Sunday night.

Prosinecki one-touched a free kick toward the end line to himself and lifted a ball that just skimmed under the crossbar at the far corner of the net — a perfectly placed shot.

The goal gave Prosinecki scores for different teams in a World Cup, having scored for Yugoslavia in a 4-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates in 1990.

Davor Suker added another in the 69th and Croatia cruised after struggling to put away the upstart Caribbean islanders in the first half.

Croatia dominated possession and the scoring opportunities throughout, but Robbie Earle's header as the teams were heading into first-half injury time gave the ``Reggae Boyz'' renewed hope. It also tripled the volume from their already loud faithful.

Earle knocked in a high ball from 8 yards, running full stride down the middle of the penalty area past a defender and leaping to direct Ricardo Gardener's pass inside the left post.

The goal came on only the third touch for Jamaica in Croatia's penalty area in the half, and the Jamaicans didn't have many more in the second.

Prosinecki's goal dimmed the Jamaican partisan crowd only slightly, but Suker's lowered it enough to let the sizable Croatian fan contingent be heard.

Mario Stanic put in a rebound from 6 yards in the 27th minute to give Croatia the lead. Igor Stimac hit the crossbar off Dario Simic's cross from the end line. The rebound came to the feet of Stanic, who had to step to his left to settle the ball before shooting into an empty net.

Suker was involved in several altercations and once went down well after play stopped, drawing the ire of the crowd. Every time he touched the ball after that, he drew loud whistling.

But when he settled Stanic's cross and cracked a shot that deflected off Gardener's legs and into the net, the crowd was silenced.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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