Modric’s Croatia Triumphs Over Portugal 2-1 in Euro Tune-Up; Ronaldo Sits Out as Spain Dominates Northern Ireland

Luka Modric coolly netted a penalty, driving Croatia to a 2-1 victory over Portugal. Meanwhile, Spain absolutely clobbered Northern Ireland, prepping for the European Championship on Saturday.

These were the last warm-ups for Spain and Croatia, who will face off on June 15 in Berlin. They’re in the cutthroat Group B, sharing the spotlight with Italy and Albania.

Spain was on fire, annihilating Northern Ireland 5-1. Pedri González stood out, bagging his first two international goals.

Portugal still has a date with Ireland on Tuesday before starting their campaign against the Czech Republic on June 18 in Leipzig. They hold the upper hand in Group F, which also features Turkey and Georgia.

Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t see any action against Croatia, as coach Roberto Martínez chose Gonçalo Ramos to lead the charge.

Ronaldo joined the squad on Friday, fresh off his club season with Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia. The 39-year-old legend is poised to make an unprecedented sixth appearance at the European Championship. With 128 goals, he’s the top scorer in men’s soccer history and guided Portugal to glory in 2016.

Modric coolly slotted his penalty past Diogo Costa in the eighth minute at Portugal’s National Stadium. The 38-year-old Real Madrid maestro was awarded the spot-kick after Vitinha brought down Mateo Kovacic in the box.

Diogo Jota and Nelson Semedo came off the bench to combine for Portugal’s equalizer in the 48th minute, with Semedo setting up Jota to score.

Ante Budimir restored Croatia’s lead in the 56th minute, heading in a rebound after Costa parried Mario Pašalić’s shot onto the crossbar.

Costa twice denied Nikola Vlašić, preventing a heavier defeat for Portugal.

Modric was subbed off in the 54th minute. His contract with Madrid is up at the end of the month after a season where he lost his starting spot. However, the ex-Ballon d’Or winner hinted at continuing with the club when he told fans, during Champions League celebrations, “See you next season.”

Euro 2024 kicks off Friday with Germany hosting Scotland.

**SPAIN BRILLIANT**

Northern Ireland’s Daniel Ballard shocked Spain with a header in the second minute. Yet, Luis de la Fuente’s squad roared back in Mallorca.

Pedri netted twice in the first half, his first goals in his 20th match for Spain. The Barcelona star, now 21, helped Spain to the Euro 2021 semifinals but was sidelined since the 2022 World Cup due to injury. He returned strong in Spain’s 5-0 thrashing of Andorra on Wednesday.

Álvaro Morata, Fabián Ruiz, and Mikel Oyarzabal, who notched a hat-trick against Andorra, added the other goals.

**OTHER FRIENDLIES**

Romelu Lukaku scored twice and Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard netted another, as Belgium cruised to a 3-0 win over Luxembourg.

Belgium is tipped to advance from Group E with Ukraine, Slovakia, and Romania.

Serbia dominated Sweden 3-0, with goals from Sergej Milinković-Savić, Aleksandar Mitrović, and Dušan Tadić.

England and Serbia kick off on June 16 in Group C, alongside Denmark and Slovenia.

Denmark bested Norway 3-1, with Erling Haaland netting Norway’s lone goal, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Jannik Vestergaard, and Yussuf Poulsen scored for Denmark.

Slovenia needed a last-minute save from Jan Oblak to secure a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria.

Switzerland and Austria drew 1-1, with Silvan Widmer equalizing for the Swiss after Christoph Baumgartner’s opener.

Austria will clash with France in their opener on June 17. They’re in Group D with the Netherlands and Poland.

Switzerland is in Group A with Germany, Scotland, and Hungary, which saw Barnabás Varga score twice to defeat Israel 3-0.

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