The cardiac Croats were at it again; this time in Liechtenstein during a friendly warmup for the upcoming World Cup 2014 qualifier with Serbia in September.
The Vatreni started with a strong lineup, which included regulars Pletikosa, Srna, Ćorluka, Rakitić, Modrić, Olić and Mandžukić. Possession and control was kept by Croatia early in the game with not much happening in front of the net until Olić’s cross from the sideline met Mandžukić in front of the goal in the 21st minute. However, instead of firing towards goal, the Bayern Munich frontman opted to pass the ball across the face of the goal to an open Eduardo, who easily slid the ball in for the opening goal. Liechtenstein would fire away at goalie Stipe Pletikosa on numerous occasion, missing the frame on every attempt, but would finally equalize in the 31′ when Andreas Christen would lose defender Darijo Srna on a run towards goal, and tap in the equalizer which came across the box.
It was more of the same passive play from Croatia in the second half with lack of urgency for any goals against the 148th ranked team in the world. But Rnk Split striker, Ante Rebić, who would make his senior debut Wednesday night, came off the bench in the second half and would instantly make his case to becoming a permanent member of the senior squad. In the 67th minute, Eduardo would split two defenders with a pass and Rebić, with his head down the entire way, would right foot a bending shot just inside the far post to make it 2-1 Croatia. It was a similar goal/move he made at the U-20 World Cup in Turkey earlier in the summer.
But even with the lead, Croatia could not put away Liechtenstein, as Polverino would hadouken (Street Fighter) a volley from inside the box to to equalize the match at 2-2 in the 77th minute. There was nothing Pletikosa could do. And although just a friendly, Croatia would not die and showed glimpses of urgency as Eduardo would fire away a shot just seconds later, but was ultimately flagged for being offside. However, that would not deter the Brazilian-born Croatian international from a game winning goal as he would head home Darijo Srna’s free kick in the 86th minute for the 3-2 win.
Croatia didn’t get the blowout win we were all expecting but they did show signs of control when needed. Modrić looked spectacular in the midfield, spraying intricate passes all over the field, ultimately being subbed out in the second half for teenage phenom Alen Halilović. Halilović came on and showed no nerves in his second straight game for Croatia, shooting the ball from outside the box on multiple occasions. The kid has no fear but will need to learn to pass in certain situations instead of looking at goal.
Croatia travel to Belgrade on September 6th to face Serbia in World Cup qualifying.
Starting XI: Pletikosa – Srna, Ćorluka, Vida, Milić – Rakitić, Badelj, Modrić, Olić – Mandžukić, Eduardo