There’s something much bigger brewing inside the Croatian national football team outside of Luka Modrić blocked penalties and frustrating Andrej Kramarić misses from point blank range.
With their 3-0 victory in Cyprus Friday night, the Vatreni posted their sixth straight clean sheet in a qualifying campaign for the first time in history. Croatia only conceded one time thus far in 2022 World Cup qualifying and it happened 15 minutes into their first match against Slovenia on March 24th. That means Croatia has not been scored on in 6 1/2 straight qualifying games, which spans 615 minutes (or 10 hours) of clean sheet football. (Friendlies and Euro 2020 results are not being included into these figures)
At the end of the day, defense wins championships. We can critique our beloved Vatreni for missed opportunities offensively, however, the defense has been on lock down for all of 2021. Even at EURO this past summer, Croatia conceded only one goal against home side England at Wembley before a horrible penalty kick call went against them in the Czech match. Croatia’s only outlier game this year has been against Spain when five goals hit the back of the net in 120 minutes of play in the Round of 16 at EURO 2020. With Sosa, Gvardiol, Ćaleta-Car, and Stanišić becoming more involved defensively moving forward, Croatia could become a fortress in front of net in the next decade.
The best defensive qualifying campaign to date for Croatia came in 2002 World Cup qualifying, when the Vatreni rattled off five straight clean sheets and only conceded twice in eight matches.
The 2021 team could very well keep Slovakia and Malta scoreless in their next two games before facing Russia in the group finale at Poljud November 14th.