Nikola Katic and Croatia U21s have got off to a horrible start in the UEFA European U21 Championship.

They were defeated 4-1 by Romania in their opening group match on Tuesday evening.

Katic is an experienced performer at youth international level. (Photo by Aude Alcover/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Croatia are ranked fifth in the world at senior level and promising Rangers defender Katic said prior to this tournament that the youth side was confident of a good showing [Sportske].

However, their qualification hopes already look to be in tatters.

Katic teamed up with former Celtic loanee Filip Benkovic, in what looked to be an extremely strong centre-back partnership.

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Yet, it didn’t take Romania long to go in front.

 

George Puscas netted a penalty after 11 minutes before Ianis Hagis doubled the lead three minutes later.

Puscas strokes home an early penalty. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Everton winger Nikola Vlasic then looked to have arrested the slide, by pulling one back.

However, the Croatian defence proved leaky again in the second half.

Tudor Baluta restored a two-goal advantage after 66 minutes before Adrian Petre completed something of a hammering in the closing stages.

As it’s a group stage format, Katic’s hopes of progression are technically still alive.

However, given their upcoming opponents, their chances look slim. France and England await them over the coming week, with both teams bosting celebrated talents.

England lost their opening match 2-1 despite an excellent solo goal from Phil Foden. (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Still, if Croatia do crash out at the first stage, at least the big centre-back won’t be too fatigued ahead of the club season.

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