SPLIT, Croatia ( Associated Press) — Defending champion France was unable to turn the tide after losing its Nations League debut, drawing 1-1 at home to Croatia on Monday.
The French took the lead through midfielder Adrien Rabiot’s goal after the break, but substitute Andrej Kramarić equalized from a penalty near the end in the teams’ first match since the 2018 World Cup final which France won 4-2 .
Croatia have failed to beat France in their nine meetings, and Monday’s was the third draw on record.
The draw was bad business for both. France was coming off a 2-1 loss to Denmark in Paris on Friday, its first loss after a 20-game unbeaten run. Croatia opened with a 3-0 home loss to Austria.
France will visit Austria on Friday and Croatia will travel to Denmark.
In another match, Denmark recorded their second win by beating Austria 2-1 in Vienna. Defender Jens Stryger scored six minutes from time for Denmark. Xaver Schlager equalized for the home team and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg opened the scoring.
The start of the meeting was delayed 90 minutes due to a blackout.
France missed striker Kylian Mbappé, who suffered a knee injury in the loss to Denmark. Manager Didier Deschamps made 10 changes to his starting eleven.
Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann came off the bench and the French attack included Wissam Ben Yedder and Christopher Nkunku from the start.
Deschamps considered the result “satisfactory”.
“This is our chance to prepare for the World Cup and try every chance we get,” he added.
At the World Cup in Qatar, France is in the same group as Denmark, Tunisia and another team yet to be decided.
Before a packed house of 30,000 spectators, Croatia paid tribute to their captain Luka Modric for playing his 150th match for the national team.
“It’s a phenomenal feeling. I am happy and proud of my 150th match with Croatia”, declared Modric.
The first half was characterized by a defensive game in which each squad had a chance to score. Nkunku had a goal disallowed for offside.
Rabiot put the visitors ahead seven minutes into the second half. He scored with his left foot after exchanging passes with Ben Yedder.
Kramarić feinted the goalkeeper who moved to the opposite side and scored the penalty with a low right-footed shot seven minutes from time.
The winners of the four League A groups will qualify for the final tournament in June next year.