England’s 2018 conquerors Croatia dramatically reach the Qatar World Cup as late own goal from Fedor Kudryashov sees Luka Modric & Co leapfrog Russia
- Croatia secured qualification for the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Russia
- The game was played in driving rain as Russia goalkeeper Matvei Safonov shone
- But he could do nothing as the ball cannoned off Fedor Kudryashov and in
- The visitors needed a draw to automatically qualify and are now in the play-offs
- Croatia have become the seventh side to reach the finals happening in 2022
Croatia clinched an automatic berth in next year’s World Cup finals in dramatic fashion as a late Fedor Kudryashov own goal gave them a 1-0 home win over Russia in their crunch Group D qualifier on Sunday.
Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runners-up, jumped above Russia to top the standings on 23 points from 10 games, one more than the second-placed Russians, who will head into the March play-offs.
Croatia dominated a match played in driving rain, but a string of good saves by visiting goalkeeper Matvei Safonov and a waterlogged pitch kept them at bay before Kudryashov’s clumsy 80th-minute touch delighted the home fans.
Croatia players celebrate after Fedor Kudryashov’s late own goal ultimately puts them through
The winner bounced in off Kudryashov after home left-back Borna Sosa’s hopeful cross
Needing a draw to automatically qualify, the Russians defended with everyone behind the ball and soaked up intense pressure as the Croatians besieged their goal but failed to create clearcut chances.
Andrej Kramaric headed straight at Safonov in the ninth minute before Marcelo Brozovic unleashed two long-range efforts, one sailing inches wide and the other drawing an acrobatic save from the visiting keeper.
Safonov kept out a close-range Mario Pasalic header with a superb stop in the 47th minute and the Russians appeared to be home and dry before they were undone by Kudryashov’s error.
With waves of Croatian attacks losing momentum on a difficult pitch, left-back Borna Sosa floated in a hopeful cross from the left and Kudryashov bundled the ball into his own net after it bounced awkwardly in front of him.
Russia missed their only chance to salvage the game from their first fluent move in stoppage time, Vyacheslav Karavaev firing over the bar from 20 yards.
Visiting goalkeeper Matvei Safonov did well in tricky conditions before the cruel body blow
Croatia are the seventh side to reach the finals – to be held in November and December 2022