Photo: Ante Cizmic/Cropix
In a game that could have been won by either team, Croatia leave Brussels with a valuable point after a 1-1 draw with Belgium Tuesday night.
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ivan Perišić scored his first goal for Croatia in the sixth minute of play as a Mario Mandžukić cross from the right missed everyone in the box and Perišić one-timed low to put Croatia up early. The Vatreni looked to be in control of the game, thwarting Belgian attacks and adding some of their own. However, another goal would not come in the first half and an Ivan Strinić lapse on defense in first half injury time would lead to Belgium’s equalizer.
Ivan Perišić goal
Following a corner, Strinić headed the ball towards the center of the field, which lead to a Guillaume Gillet rocket from just outside the box, which goalie Stipe Pletikosa could do nothing about. The goal gave Belgium all the momentum going into halftime and they made sure it wouldn’t go to waste.
The Belgians roasted the Croatian defense for the first 20 minutes of the second half and could have easily put the game away. This was following a botched 2-on-1 Jelavić/Mandžukić breakaway attempt. Belgium looked like Spain for a few moments but couldn’t find a goal. Defender Josip Šimunić came up BIG for Croatia on two occasions, blocking an open net strike with Pletikosa out of position and tackling correctly on a shot attempt.
But the miss that will be remembered is Domagoj Vida’s header attempt following a corner in injury time with an open net and a victory on the line. The Dinamo Zagreb man headed the ball but missed his mark right of the post with no one in goal.
All in all, Croatia could have won if they would have finished their chances but they could have been demolished in the second half at the same time. They can be happy with a draw going into October qualifiers versus Wales and Macedonia.
18 year-old Hajduk midfielder Josip Radošević received his first senior start for Croatia and played decent at the holding midfielder position. There were glimpes of promise from the kid. Let’s see if Štimac keeps him there instead of Vukokević.
Croatia Starting XI: Pletikosa, Strinić, Šimunić, Schildenfeld, Vida, Srna, Radošević, Modrić, Perišić, Jelavić, Mandžukić