Own-goal gives Croatia a World Cup spot at Russia’s expense


A late own goal sent Croatia to the World Cup next year on Sunday in a 1-0 game over Russia.

Croatia bombarded the Russian gate throughout the game – without much success – in search of a win that finished second in 2018 to secure an automatic spot in qualifying group H and send Russia to the playoffs.

When the breakout occurred in the 81st minute, it came from an unexpected source. Borna Sosa of Croatia took the cross too deep to dodge his teammates, but Russian defender Fyodor Kudryashov turned the ball into his own net, trying to control it.

In the pouring rain, in front of a boisterous home crowd, Croatia began to look forward to a nimble passing game centered on the magnificent midfielder Luka Modric. By the break, the increasingly swampy field made this impossible and turned the game into a series of canopies, speculative long-range strikes and wild tackles.

The Croatian takedown was patchy, with frequent shots on target, although Russian goalkeeper Matvey Safonov was accurate when called upon to fend off Marcelo Brozovic in the first half.

Russia would have ended up in a draw and had little ambition but to survive 90 minutes. The Russians didn’t record a single shot until 74, and Croatian goalkeeper Ivo Grbic didn’t have to escape. Even after Kudryashov’s own goal changed the game, the closest to the result for the Russians was a long-range shot over the crossbar of defender Vyacheslav Karavaev. This defeat was the first for the new coach of the Russian national team Valery Karpin in his first seven matches.

Slovakia, which took third place, lost to Malta with a 6: 0 win. Slovenia beat Cyprus 2: 1.


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