Croatia got the job done with a strong 2nd half against Cyprus in a 3-0 victory Friday night. The game went perfectly to plan except for the following three gripes I have with those 90 minutes:
- The Vatreni went 45 minutes without scoring a goal against Cyprus. That can’t happen. You need to find a goal inside 30-35 minuets to make the opposing team open up, hit them again, and end the game. We all know Croatia is the superior team here and the only thing Cyprus can do is bunker and counter. The Modrić to Perišić connection right before halftime was absolutely perfect. But you simply need to score sooner against a team like this.
- Andrej Kramarić. What can you say about this guy right now? Absolutely nothing is going his way. It looked as if his horrendous goalless streak for Croatia would end tonight but a lengthy VAR ruling would rule Perišić offside. Later, Kramarić would miss yet another point blank sitter in front of goal. Going back to the Euro 2020 Spain game in extra time, Krama has now missed three easy opportunities in front of goal. Does Livaja jump him on the depth chart?
- Luka Modrić is our captain. Hećs arguable still our best player. But he doesn’t have it in the penalty kick department. He missed a PK tonight with a low hard shot to the lower-left with the goalie guessing right. He missed the penalty against Denmark in extra time at the 2018 World Cup and did not have a convincing kick moments later in the shootout. @IvanRakitić, It’s time to give your boy some lessons.
Russia defeated Slovakia 1-0 on the night through an own goal which means they are still tied with Croatia atop the qualifying group. However, the Vatreni extend their goal differential lead to three goals now, which can come into play. If both sides win their next two matches and Croatia keeps their GD on Russia, that means the Vatreni will only need a draw versus Russia on the last day of qualifying against Russia in November at Poljud in order to automatically qualify for the World Cup.
Croatia hosts Slovakia on Monday. Russia plays a desperate Slovenia side.
It’s pretty simple. Croatia control their own destiny for an automatic berth to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In their way, four matches versus Cyprus, Slovakia, Malta, and Russia.
This week, the Vatreni will face Cyprus away on Friday before heading home to take on Slovakia in Osijek on Monday. Nothing short of six points is expected here with all the firepower Croatia have compared to their counterparts. The Malta and Russia matches will take place next month in November.
We talked about the starting backline yesterday with Sosa, Gvardiol, and Stanišić expected to get the start. Vida is coming off an injury but appears to be back at 100%. Dalić will most likely go with his power 3 in midfield: Modrić, Kovačić, Brozović. How can you not? Even though I hate playing Modrić and Kovačić together.
That leaves Perišić on the left wing but I would give Dinamo’s Luka Ivanušec the start on the right wing vs. Cyprus instead of Josip Brekalo. Will it matter in the end? Probably not.
Andrej Kramarić scored a goal for Hoffenheim two weeks ago – and with the Croatian strike force so thin – he is really the only option we can go with. I suppose Livaja can start in this match but it should be Zlatko Dalić’s #1 priority to try and get Kramarič going again. A goal or two this week during the international break can do wonders for Krama.