Well, it looked as if Slovenia were playing for a draw at Poljud, but that’s not our problem.
This Croatian side – without Modrić – came out with urgency tonight in Split to thump Slovenia 3-0 in World Cup qualifying. There were tons of chances down the flanks in the 1st half which multiple shots that should have gone in. Andrej Kramarić couldn’t hit water if he was standing on a boat in the middle of the ocean, but we can critique his drought in Croatian checkers later. Hajduk’s own Marko Livaja headed home a ball off the post in the 33′ that relaxed everyone inside Poljud wearing a Croatian shirt. The pressure kept coming as Ivan Perisic sent a perfect pass to Mario Pašalić in front of goal in the 66′. Nikola Vlašić headed home an insurance goal to make it 3-0 in injury time. Croatia now leaps Russia on goal differential, which is the first tiebreaker in group play.
All in all, a perfect night for the Vatreni as they take 7/9 points from their toughest week of qualifying.
It’s great to see Croatia break out of their goal scoring drought where they only hit the back of the net fives times in five matches (3 against Malta) before tonight. However, the Vatreni have only conceded once in six matches. It happened in the first 15 minutes against Slovenia and its been all clean sheets since.
This is a huge World Cup qualifier for Croatia. If our beloved Vatreni can get all three points against Slovenia at Poljud, they will be in good shape moving forward with only four matches remaining in October and November. Only top spot in Group H gets an automatic berth to Qatar in 2022. Second place must qualify through a 4-team playoff.
We can assume that Russia will beat Malta Tuesday night and finish September with 13 points. If Croatia win, they will match Russia. Slovenia beat Croatia 1-0 back in March on a deflected shot in Ljubljana and couldn’t find the back of the net against Jan Oblak.
Poljud will host 20,000 strong Tuesday night in Split. Hajduk’s Marko Livaja is expected to get the start on his home turf up top for Croatia after Antonio Čolak did not impress against Slovakia. It’s a shame Ante Budimir isn’t at 100% because because this would have been the ideal situation for him to play as Croatia has no go-to striker at the moment.
After the Slovenia match, Croatia hosts Slovakia and Russia while traveling to Malta and Cyprus. It’s a favorable schedule as the Russia match would land on the last day of group play where it may not matter anyways. Russia still have to play Slovakia and Slovenia.