Croatia inflicted a first defeat on Wales in the European Qualifiers as inexperience and defensive errors ultimately cost Ryan Giggs’ team in Osijek. However, the Wales manager will take many positives from the game as he saw his players fight to get themselves back in the match.
Croatia 2-1 Wales
EUROPEAN QUALIFIERS - GROUP E
- Saturday, 8 June 2019
- Stadion Gradski vrt, Osijek
Wales were 2-0 down before David Brooks came off the bench to make an immediate impact and score with a 77th minute strike, that took a deflection on its way high into the net past a helpless Dominik Livaković.
It was Wales’ defensive frailties that let themselves down as Croatia enjoyed attacking the Welsh right flank and that’s where they created their first goal from. As Ivan Perišić directed a low powerful cross into the box, James Lawrence had to try and deal with it under pressure from an attacker, however, he could do nothing more than direct it into his own net to give Croatia a 17th minute lead.
Wales ended the first half positively and came close to levelling matters before the break, when Dan James went up the left before crossing to the far side of the box where he found Harry Wilson. He sent a dangerous ball into the six-yard box that Livaković somehow stopped from crossing his goal line in a moment of confusion with his defenders.
A disastrous start to the second half saw Wales fall two goals behind after they put themselves under pressure when attempting to play out from the back. The errors allowed Perišić to score a second for Croatia.
It was always going to be a tough test for Ryan Giggs and his team, against a Croatian outfit that were World Cup finalists last year and having never lost a home match in the European Qualifiers.
In the extreme Osijek heat, Wales pulled themselves together and grew throughout the second half, pulling a goal back but being unable to force an equaliser despite creating chances to score. Nevertheless, they will take the positives from their efforts into the next EURO 2020 qualifier against Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday (11 June).
Croatia enjoyed 60% of the possession in the match but Wales managed more attempts on target with 7 to Croatia’s 3. Croatia completed 475 passes in the match compared to 249 by Wales.
Tough place to go
Wales have failed to beat Croatia in five attempts. Croatia have won four of those meetings, whilst the other match finished in a draw.
David Brooks came off the bench to score his first goal for Wales with his 77thminute strike against Croatia whilst earning his 11th cap. Brooks was fully expected to start the game in Osijek but Ryan Giggs revealed that he wasn’t quite fit enough to make it into the starting XI. The attacker will have his eyes on the next match against Hungary to make his way back into the starting line-up on Tuesday.
Giggs takes the positives but recognises frailties
Following the match, Wales boss Ryan Giggs said: “I think we created the better chances whilst not playing well. We showed them too much respect and gave two poor goals away. When you do that against quality opposition, you’re not going to win many games. We need to play better.
“There are some positives. The chances that we did create against a good team like this and in the last 20 minutes there was only one team who was pushing, who looked fitter. I’m disappointed because I feel as though one got away there.
“We’ve got to be realistic. Everyone has lost in this group so far, that’s how competitive it is. We nearly got something out of this game and we’ve got to take the positives, play better and defend better otherwise we won’t win on Tuesday [in Hungary] either."
Croatia: Livakovic; Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Barisic; Brozovic, Modric, Kovacic (Badelj 76’); Brekalo (Pasalic 67’), Perisic (Skoric), Kramaric.
Subs not used: Kalinic, Sluga, Melnjak, Craleta-Car, Benkovic, Halilovic, Caktas, Petkovic, Bartolec.
Goals: J Lawrence (OG) 17’, Perisic 48’
Wales: Hennessey; Roberts, Mepham, J Lawrence, B Davies; Allen, Smith (Brooks 65’), Vaulks (Ampadu 66’); Wilson, James (Matondo 79’); Bale.
Subs not used: Ward, A Davies, Gunter, Taylor, Williams, Vokes, Levitt, T Lawrence, Lockyer.
Goal: Brooks 77’