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England's Euro dreams end

sports Updated: Nov 22, 2007 11:42 IST
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England failed to qualify for next year's European Championship by losing to Croatia 3-2 Wednesday, the first time the English have missed a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup.

Croatia, which had already reached the final tournament in Austria and Switzerland, got its winning goal from substitute Mladen Petric in the 77th.

Niko Kranjcar and Ivica Olic put Croatia ahead 2-0 early in the first half, but England evened the score with a penalty from Frank Lampard in the 56th and a 65th-minute goal from Peter Crouch, who scored off a cross from substitute David Beckham. England had only needed a draw in its final European Championship qualifier to ensure it would also advance from Group E. "You should see the dressing room _ so disappointed to have let so many people down," England coach Steve McClaren said. "Explanations are for later. It's very difficult to reflect after a huge disappointment, losing a game like that in front of our fans and in front of the nation."

Injured players John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen watched the match from team dugout. They came on the field after the final whistle to support their teammates, but McClaren _ whose job is in jeopardy _ went straight down the tunnel.

"No, I'm not stepping down," McClaren said. "Ultimately I take responsibility and I accept that. It is my job to get us qualified and I failed to do that."

Beckham, Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who were all visibly upset, stayed for a while on the field, acknowledging the crowd while Croatia's players celebrated in front of their cheering fans. England's gamble of starting Scott Carson in goal for only his second international game backfired. His first touch helped the ball into his own net for Croatia's eighth-minute goal. Carson looked ready to catch Kranjar's long-range shot, but the ball hit the ground and bounced off the goalkeeper's lower arm and into the corner of the net.

It was 2-0 in the 14th. Eduardo da Silva got past England defenders Joleon Lescott and Sol Campbell to cross for Olic, who beat the offside trap and easily rounded Carson to score into an empty net.

Lampard's penalty was awarded after Jermain Defoe was brought down by Josip Simunic.

Beckham came on as a substitute at halftime for his 99th international appearance, and his arrival brought loud cheers from fans that had jeered its team off at halftime.

Wednesday's game was the first time Beckham had not started an England match since the 1998 World Cup.

England began with a sixth-minute chance from Joe Cole, whose header was saved by goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa. In the 10th, Shaun Wright-Phillips also had a shot saved.

After going down 2-0, Gareth Barry and Gerrard had free kicks cleared in the first half, but Croatia was the more dangerous in attack and Carson pushed away a shot from Luka Modric in the 42nd. Crouch, playing alone up front, struggled to get support when he won aerial challenges.

The addition of Beckham and Jermain Defoe in the second half added an extra attacking edge, but Croatia was still dangerous. Da Silva had another chance in the 53rd, when he shot wide while under pressure from Campbell.

Croatia continued attacking after Lampard's goal, with Olic the main threat. He sent a shot over the bar in the 59th. A minute later, he had a shot saved by Carson's chest.

Olic also forced a save from Carson in the 62nd. Crouch's equalizer brought loud cheers of "You're not singing anymore" from the fans.

Heavy rain had left parts of the Wembley field waterlogged before play even started and the surface was slippery during the match.

Lineups:

England: Scott Carson, Micah Richards, Wayne Bridge, Steven Gerrard, Joleon Lescott, Sol Campbell, Gareth Barry (Jermain Defoe, 46), Frank Lampard, Peter Crouch, Shaun Wright-Phillips (David Beckham, 46), Joe Cole (Darren Bent, 80).

Goals: Lampard (pen) 56', Crouch 65'

Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa, Vedran Corluka, Dario Simic, Robert Kovac, Josip Simunic, Darijo Srna, Luka Modric, Niko Kovac, Niko Kranjcar (Danijel Pranjic, 75), Ivica Olic (Ivan Rakitic, 84), Eduardo da Silva (Mladen Petric, 69).

Goals: Kranjcar 8, Olic 13, Petric 77

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