The Croatia national team played the penultimate qualifying match to qualify for the 2022 World Cup against Malta on Thursday in Valletta.
The Croatia lineup had a few surprises. Ivo Grbić started in goal instead of Dominik Livaković, with Juranović, Ćaleta-Car, Guardiol, and Sosa in the defense. Lovro Majer joined Modrić, Brozović, Pašalić, and Perišić in the midfield, and Andrej Kramarić started at the top of the attack.
MALTA (3-4-3): Bonello – Shaw, Agius (C), Pepe – Attard, Cristensen, Teuma, Camenzuli – J. Mbong, Montebello, Degabriele
CROATIA (4-2-3-1): Grbić – Juranović, Ćaleta Car, Gvardiol, Sosa – Brozović, Modrić (C) – Majer, Pašalić, Perišić – Kramarić
After Russia topped Cyprus in their second-to-last Group H match (6:0), Croatia had no room to make a mistake against Malta. And they didn’t.
Kramarić had the first chance of the game already in the 2nd minute but shot over the crossbar. But Croatia’s first goal came just 4 minutes later. Modrić and Kramarić took advantage of the keeper’s high position to find Perišić alone at the top of the box for 0:1 Croatia! It was Perišić’s third goal in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Croatia’s pressure only increased in the next two minutes, with Sosa attacking up the left-wing and Modrić nailing a shot at the keeper.
Gvardiol scored in the 12th minute which was called offside, and Malta scored from offside a minute later! An exciting first 15 minutes kept us on the edge of our seats, but the most important thing was that Croatia stayed ahead.
Croatia finally increased their lead in the 22nd minute. A Modrić free kick found the head of Ćaleta-Car for 0:2!
Unfortunately, Croatia’s defense was caught in the 31st minute, resulting in an own goal by Brozović for 1:2.
It didn’t take long for Croatia to get back to a comfortable result. An incredible ball from Majer found Kramarić alone on a counterattack. Pašalić ran into open space to score for 1:3 in the 39th minute!
And the first half wouldn’t be complete without a goal from the captain. A brilliant backheel from Pašalić found Luka at the top of the box for 1:4 – and Modrić’s 20th Croatia goal!
Kristijan Jakić replaced Brozović to start the second half as Dalić needs Broz fresh against Russia. And there was not much need for him anyway – Kramarić assisted Majer’s goal in the 47th minute for 1:5 Croatia!
And then another one just 5 minutes later – Kramarić took advantage of an empty goal for 1:6 Croatia in the 52nd minute!
Dalić subbed on Oršić, Petković, and Vlašić for Perišić, Kramarić, and Modrić in the 53rd minute. Livaja was subbed on for Pašalić in the 61st minute.
Majer was on fire, scoring his second goal of the game in the 63rd minute for an incredible 1:7 Croatia!
Croatia dominated for the remainder of the match but was unable to increase their lead. The match ended 1:7 for Croatia!
Croatia and Russia will meet in the final Group H World Cup qualifier on Sunday at Poljud Stadium in Split. The winner will directly qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
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