Somehow the 2022-23 football season is yet to come to a close, but Croatia, the Netherlands and namely Bruno Petkovic made that feel somewhat more digestible by playing a thrilling Nations League semi-final, which Croatia won 4-2.
Petkovic being specifically namedropped feels odd, especially in a game which threw up a six-goal thriller as a scoreline, so what on earth was he up to? Horror tackle? Moment to forget?
Nah, quite the opposite. Made one of the best players in Europe look incredibly silly before putting his name in the headlines in extra time, in absolutely the best way possible.
It’s a little difficult to care all too much for the Nations League anyway, with UEFA doing their best to shove another tournament down our necks and forcing us to like it. But despite us all doing our collective best as football fans to lambast it at any given opportunity, the Nations League does occasionally throw up those moments of brilliance that hook you right in.
Hell, Petkovic’s wonder strike against the Oranje has us sat here thinking of quirky names to refer to the competition as. The Barclays vibes. You get the idea.
Might feel a little far fetched, but it’s not when you look back through the highlights of the semi-final. Six goals, two penalties, a last-gasp equaliser from the Dutch to take the game from extra time, and a thunderbastard from Petkovic, who is fresh off the back of a campaign with Dinamo Zagreb and still has plenty left in the tank.
Croatia have proven themselves to be a pretty special outfit in the last five years or so, exceeding expectations at the 2018 World Cup by finishing runners up, and maintaining that excellent level since. They now find themselves within touching distance of a major honour – no, seriously – and that is down to a frankly absurd finish from their 28-year-old striker.
With just under 100 minutes or so played, Petkovic, possibly frustrated at the lack of service he’s getting as all strikers often are, drops off the Netherlands’ back line and comes into the middle of the park, asking for a pass to feet. Manager’s nightmare. Stay up, son. Keep the defenders busy.
He’s thought ‘sod that’, though. Seen his name in the headlines. And how right he was. Petkovic gets the pass and in one slick movement, rolls Frenkie de Jong and spins him into oblivion, to the point where he’s probably thinking he’s moving to Old Trafford, before unleashing an almighty sh*t-pinger beyond the reach of Justin Bijlow.
Oh, what a hit! 🤩
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) June 14, 2023
Phwoar. Have some of that, Netherlands.
Not sure if the Nations League qualifies for it, but if it does, this is most definitely a goal worth being dubbed with Alan Partridge’s 1994 World Cup countdown commentary.
Quite the badge of honour, that. Worth more than a trophy. He must have a foot like a traction engine.
Unfortunately for Petkovic, his goal wasn’t the winning one in the end as Luka Modric just had to have the final word by slotting away a penalty to put the game beyond doubt. It’s yet another highlight from a brilliant 2022-23 campaign, though, that saw him bag 14 times at club level and now puts him within touching distance of a major honour with his country, too.
Oh, he’s also well and truly in the hat for goal of the tournament contender with that. Deserves to be, anyway. Proper technique.
Here’s to you, Bruno, for making a painfully long season that bit more bearable. More of that in the final, please.
By Mitchell Wilks.