Things we learned vs. Slovakia:
- The Croatian offense is in shambles. No pace or urgency. Very slow in build up. There is no “go to” guy Croatia can count on. Vatreni have scored five goals in as many games and three of those came against Malta.
- The goalkeeper competition is officially open for business! Osijek’s Ivica Ivušić had a wonderful first match for Croatia and was my “Man fo the Match” as easily saved 2-3 Slovakian shots the could have gone in. Livaković will have to step up his game if he wants to remain the #1.
- This team looks uninspired. Even with new players like Oršić, Čolak, and Ivanušec seeing the field from the first whistle, there’s not a lot hunger out there. The team needs to hit the refresh button and Dalić needs to be sacked. Mediocre tactics and football is not Croatia’s brand.
The good news? Croatia got the much needed three points they were looking for on the road and shots were being peppered in from outside the box. Oršić had a rocket from outside the box tipped off the crossbar. We need to see more of that offensively.
The second game of September World Cup qualifiers kicks off Saturday night in Bratislava when Croatia face Slovakia. The Slovaks are coming off a 1-1 draw with Slovenia earlier in the week while Croatia played out a scoreless draw with Russia in Moscow.
This is all you need to know about Croatia and Slovakia. Croatia just beat Slovakia twice in EURO 2020 qualifying. The Vatreni won 4-0 in Slovakia in September of 2019 and beat them again 3-1 in Rijeka two months later. That’s 7-1 over two legs. Slovakia is a mediocre European side with no real star power. This World Cup qualifying campaign will turn this week after two more matches from all the sides being concluded. After Tuesday, 60% of the games will have been played.
Slovakia beat Poland 2-1 in their EURO 2020 opening match before losing to Sweden and Spain. They did not get out of the group.
This is a Croatia side in transition but there’s enough firepower here to beat Slovakia and take control of the group going into the final two months of qualifying.