Starting XI vs. Wales: Pletikosa, Strinić, Šimunić, Lovren, Srna, Perišić, Modric, Badelj, Rakitić, Mandžukić, Eduardo in a 4-4-2 formation
It was a packed house at Gradski Vrt in Osijek Tuesday night for Croatia’s World Cup qualifier versus Wales; and the Vatreni did not disappoint. Although Croatia only won by a 2-0 scoreline, they dominated the game from start to finish. Croatia managed 67% ball possession, 10 corner kicks and 19 shots on goal against the Welsh on a slow, muddy pitch. Milan Badelj fired a cracker of a shot in the first half and Darijo Srna nearly squeezed in a free kick near post. But it was ultimately a Welsh blunder on defense which lead to Croatia’s first goal in the 27′. A back pass to the goalkeeper was slowed down by the horrible pitch conditions as Mario Mandžukić chased down the pass. The ensuing clearance attempt hit off the Bayern Munich striker and he easily tapped in for the lead.
Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale gave Croatia a scare on two occasions, dribbling the ball coast to coast through the entire Croatian defense, drawing a yellow card from Dejan Lovren in the first half and firing a shot at Stipe Pletikosa in the second. But Croatia kept plugging away and finally got an insurance goal in the 57′ when Srna’s corner kick was headed down towards goal by Ivan Perišić. The ball was parried away by the Welsh keeper but it went straight to Eduardo in front of the goal, who tapped in for the 2-0 lead.
All in all, it was a success on the day. Croatian fans have to be happy as the Vatreni grabbed three points without suffering any suspensions for the Serbia match on March 22nd. Croatia are now in a two-horse race to win the group with Belgium, who defeated Scotland 2-0 on the night with two late goals in the second half. Serbia lost to Macedonia in Skopje 1-0 as Ibraimi converted a penalty kick after Tomović was sent off in the 58′.
Mandžukić, Eduardo goals vs. Wales