Croatia were held to a draw by 10-man Switzerland in a fractious opening game in Euro 2004 Group B.

Amid a flurry of yellow cards, Croatia had the best chance of the first half when Ivica Olic headed against the bar following an awful defensive error.

And Croatia's chances were boosted when Johann Vogel received a second booking just after half-time.

But Switzerland held firm and might have stolen a win late on when Benjamin Huggel's shot went narrowly wide.

However, England and France will not have been overly concerned by the uninspiring performances of both of their Group B rivals.

   

Referee Lucillo Batista was involved in most of the first-half action, as after a bright start, the game descended into a series of niggly challenges by both sides.

Batista showed the first yellow card after four minutes when Vogel fouled Niko Kovac and it set the tone for the remainder of the half.

Dado Prso looked unlucky to be the recipient of the second booking when he was punished for diving in the penalty area.

The Croatia striker, who will play for Rangers next season, was brought down by Bernt Haas but his penalty claims were given short shrift.

KEY MOMENTS 39 mins: Olic's close-range header hits the bar 50 mins: Vogel receives a second booking 77 mins: Huggel's low strike skims wide  Just after half an hour, the referee levelled matters when Switzerland were also denied a penalty.

Stephane Chapuisat, looking for his first international goal since September 2002, went down but his appeals were also ignored.

Switzerland, though, were struggling to trouble their sharper opponents and they should have been behind at half-time.

Swiss keeper Joerg Stiel failed to collect a corner and allowed Niko Kovac a free header which the striker somehow put over the bar.

 

Then as the end of the half approached, the Swiss defence's offside trap went horribly wrong when Haas played five players onside from a Croatia free-kick.

But Josip Simunic's header was palmed away by Stiel before Ivica Olic headed against the bar from point-blank range.

The bookings continued in the second half and it was no surprise when a red card appeared.

Vogel petulantly kicked the ball away after conceding a foul, and the referee had little option but to send him off.

   

With Switzerland's attacking threat now almost non-existent, Croatia coach Otto Baric replaced defender Dario Simic with midfielder Darijo Srna as his side looked to press home their advantage.

But though Croatia had the majority of the possession, it was Switzerland who almost stole an unlikely lead.

The danger looked minimal when Huggel sent a low shot towards goal but the ball crept under Butina and skimmed past the post, to the relief of the Croatian fans.

Defeat would have been rough justice on Croatia, who will nonetheless be disappointed not to emerge from their first game with a win.

Switzerland: Stiel, Haas, Mueller, H Yakin (Gygax 86), Spycher, Wicky (Henchoz 83), Vogel, Huggel, M Yakin, Chapuisat (Celestini 54), Frei.
Subs not used: Zuberbuhler, Berner, Zwyssig, Magnin, Barnetta, Rama, Vonlanthen.

Sent off: Vogel (50).
Booked: Vogel, Huggel, Stiel.

Croatia: Butina, Simic (Srna 61), R Kovac, Simunic, Zivkovic, Mornar, N Kovac, Bjelica (Rosso 74), Olic (Rapaic 45), Prso, Sokota.

Booked: Prso, Bjelica, Rapaic, Zivkovic, Mornar.

Attendance: 25,000

Referee: Lucillo Batista (Portugal)

OFFICIAL STATS BY UEFA Category Switzerland Croatia Total shots 9 16 Shots on target 4 7 Possession 46% 54% Corners won 4 9 Fouls committed 21 15 Offsides 3 3 Bookings 4 5 Sent Off 1 0

TRIVIA

  • Switzerland goalkeeper Joerg Stiel, aged 36 years three months and 10 days made certain of being the oldest player to play at Euro 2004.
  • When Johann Vogel received his second yellow card and was sent off he became the first Swiss player to be dismissed in a European Championship finals match.
  • For Croatia the deadlock meant their first ever draw in the competition following two wins and two defeats in their only previous participation in 1996.