It was supposed to be a walk in the park. No Modrić. No Ćorluka. No problem. Right?
Scotland, who went into Friday night’s game already unable to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, did the the unthinkable, and beat Croatia 1-0 in Zagreb. Modrić was missed in the middle of the field, replaced by Dinamo Zagreb’s Sammir, who played the full 90 minutes, but Croatia did not need their midfield maestro to lock up all three points. The team came out completely flat in the first half, without any sense of urgency to score. They would finish the first 45 minutes without a shot on goal and wouldn’t find their first until the 65th minute.
Sammir had a an open net look from outside the box but mishit the spinning ball over the net in the first half. It was the best chance that Croatia had in the first half.
Robert Snodgrass’ 26th minute goal would stand as the winner as Srna deflected a dribbling attack towards the Croatian goal with the Scotsman getting to the ball before Pletikosa could get a hand to it. Mario Mandžukić had the best chance of the game in the second half when Ivica Olić whipped a ball from the sideline across the face of the goal, but Mandza unfortunately hit the ball wide.
Lazy. Embarrassing. Disappointing.
All words that come to mind after this loss. Croatia could have cruised into the summer break even on points with Belgium going into the September qualifiers but now look playoff bound after this loss. Even if Croatia defeat Belgium at home later in the year, should the Belgians win their other two matches, they should still win the group as they currently sit on a +5 goal differential on Croatia.
Who is to blame for this loss?
You have to point a finger at the players. They didn’t start playing until the second half and looked like kids more than professional football players, staring at the clock on the last day of school before class is let out for summer break. This loss will end up killing Croatia, and should they get a difficult draw for the potential playoff, we will use today as the main culprit of why the Vatreni will not be in Brazil come next summer.
Hrvatska 4-4-2: Pletikosa – Srna, Schildenfeld, Šimunić, Strinić – Rakitić, Kovačić, Sammir, Perišić – Mandžukić, Olić
Škotska 4-5-1: McGregor – Hutton, Webster, Martin, Whittaker – Maloney, Morrison, McArthur, Bannan, Snodgrass – Griffiths