With 10 minutes left in their normal qualifying campaign, Croatia got the job done against Russia (and the elements) to qualify directly for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. And the win should be considered even more important today with what’s going to happen in the playoff round in March. Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Scotland, Poland, to name a few nations, will all have to qualify through a European playoff with only three berths available. (But we will get into those details later in the week.)
Although it was a complete team effort yesterday to keep Russia scoreless before an eventual Croatian goal, there’s one guy on the team that didn’t quite receive the praise that I think he should of in the events leading up to the Russia own goal. Luka Modrić starred in the midfield alongside Marcelo Brozović. Both were co-‘Men of the Match’ in my eyes. But it was ultimately 23 year-old Borna Sosa who hustled his ass off to keep the ball in play before swinging in a troublesome cross that would be catastrophically kicked into the Russian goal by Kudryashov to seal Croatia’s fate.
Borna Sosa was a villain in Croatia only six months ago when he turned his back on the HNS to play for Germany. Many Croatian fans around the world wanted nothing to do with the Stuttgart left-back after his admission of wanting to play for the Germans. However, FIFA immediately blocked the move as Sosa was too old which meant his only road to play internationally went through Croatia. He quickly apologized, was picked up by Zlatko Dalić for senior duty, and today sits as the last Croatian player to touch the ball on the goal that would send the Vatreni to the World Cup.
If you watch the play again, it did not look as if Perišić would be able to get to Brekalo’s long cross across the box. A throw-in would have let Russia reset defensively and take Croatia out of rhythm. Sosa read the play correctly and got to where he needed to be to keep the ball in play and launch the cross that would lead to Russian heartbreak.
Sosa was once a villain. Now he is the hero.
And this won’t be the last time we call Sosa a hero. He has been a pivotal part of the Stuttgart defense in the Bundesliga and has made a name for himself as an expert with his crosses from the sideline. He’s only 23 and the ideal left-back Croatians have been waiting for. With Duje Ćaleta-Car and Gvardiol moving up the ranks to anchor the Croatian backline and Juranović/Stanišić battling out for right-back supremacy; the next eight years in defense is in good hands for Croatia.
Add Brozović, Kovacic, Brekalo, Majer, Vlašić, Sučić to the mix, and we have ourselves another solid generation upon us.
But remember, it was Sosa who made that own goal against Russia happen. How quickly fortunes changed for Sosa in the span of six months in Croatian eyes.
Danke, Borna Sosa. You are forgiven.