Croatia have secured Pot 2 seeding in the 2022 World Cup draw after drawing Slovenia 1-1 in Qatar on Saturday. Andrej Kramarić opened the scoring in the 39th minute for the Vatreni, finishing a beautiful long ball from center-back Duje Ćaleta-Car. Slovenia answered in the 91st minute of the match, as Jaka Bijol’s set-piece header barely crept over the line (but did it really?). Despite the underwhelming result, Croatia looked solid on the pitch, considering the fact that they played at 70% intensity. We would be much more upset if one of our players left the match with an injury sustained during a friendly against Slovenia.
Here are five key takeaways from Saturday’s match vs. Slovenia:
- Let’s start with the biggest issue: Dominik Livaković should NOT be Croatia’s starting goalkeeper. Livaković is 27 years old and still craps his pants when a cross is whipped into the box. He needs to step out of his comfort zone, realize that not every team is Slaven Belupo, and stop expecting his opposition to politely allow him to collect the ball. Ivo Grbić is a much more talented, confident individual, and, despite his recent blunder against PSG, should be Dalić’s first choice in net.
- Croatia’s young defenders are the real deal. Joško Gvardiol, Marin Pongračić, and Duje Ćaleta-Car were ready for the occasion and played with poise. For the first time in a very long time, the Vatreni are on the verge of having a reliable, world class back line. We already know what Borna Sosa is capable of, and Josip Juranović again proved his class. No problems with the defense on Saturday.
- Andrej Kramarić looked very good in the secondary striker role. The position compliments his dribbling abilities and creates yards of open space for him to work. If Dalić can continue to properly integrate Kramarić into the lineup, Croatia’s attack will become a serious threat in the World Cup. Kramarić won “man of the match” in my eyes.
- Aside from the fact that Croatia secured a Pot 2 seed in the World Cup draw, Saturday’s 1-1 result does not matter. Croatia completely controlled the game with hardly any effort, possessing the ball for 66% of the game and shooting 10 more times than Slovenia. Yes, the finishing could have been a little better, but scoring on Slovenia’s Jan Oblak is no easy task. Slovenia tied the match with a lucky, questionable goal against our B-team. Football powerhouses often times draw and lose friendlies, but it doesn’t matter when they take the stage in a major tournament.
- The 3-5-2 formation was solid today, but one friendly against Slovenia is not enough to entirely judge the new tactic. However, planning ahead, the tactic perfectly suits the next generation of Croatian defenders. Josip Stanišić, Mario Vušković, and Josip Šutalo will adapt wonderfully to a 3-CB formation due to their pace, abilities and confidence on the ball, and size. Add those three to Gvardiol, Ćaleta-Car, Pongračić, Sosa, and Juranović, and we’ve got ourselves a dream defense! I am excited to see the 3-5-2 in Nations League with our official starters playing at 100% intensity.