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Soccer-Pranjic injury mars Croatia's warmup win over Australia

Reuters

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June 6 (Reuters) - Croatia edged Australia 1-0 in a hotly contested final warm-up before the World Cup on Friday but their victory was marred by an apparently serious ankle injury to defender Danijel Pranjic.

The 32-year old left back was carried off the pitch midway through the first half after a late tackle by Australia defender Ivan Franjic, casting doubt over his involvement in the June 12-July 13 tournament in Brazil.

The first meeting between the two sides since a 2-2 draw in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, which sent the Australians into the last 16 and knocked out Croatia, lacked nothing of the zest from that epic encounter in Stuttgart.

Both teams played aggressively at the Estadio Pituacu in Salvador and Croatia's Brazilian-born forward Eduardo da Silva missed the opening period's best chance, when Australia keeper Mat Ryan did well to save his close-range shot.

Pranjic burst down the left flank several minutes later and went down in anguish after Franjic caught his left ankle with a sliding tackle, forcing Croatia coach Niko Kovac to bring on the inexperienced Sime Vrsaljko.

Nikica Jelavic broke the deadlock in the 58th minute, driving home an unstoppable shot from 12 metres off the underside of the bar after a ricochet from playmaker Luka Modric's run fell kindly for the Hull City striker.

Australia came close to an equaliser several minutes later, when Tommy Oar's floated free kick from 35 metres caught Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa off guard and struck the woodwork.

Croatia open their Group A campaign against hosts Brazil in Sao Paulo on June 12 while Australia meet Chile in Cuiaba in Group B on June 13. (Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Ian Ransom)

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