Croatia managed to keep themselves level on points with Belgium at the top of the table after a hardfought 2-1 win over Wales. This away victory has helped the team played in their hopes of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The winner of the group qualifies for this competition automatically, while the second placed team has to go through a play-off. Croatia will want to avoid the playoff due to the fact that they could potentially meet a top team like England or France as things stand. Wales manager Chris Coleman warned ahead of the match that his team needs to be wary of midfielder Luka Modric.
Croatia manager Igor Stimac was especially happy at the way his team managed to come back from being a goal down very early in the match. Tottenham winger Gareth Bale opened the scoring with a penalty after just 21 min on the clock. It looked like Wales would secure this unlikely victory just 15 min before the final whistle. However, Lovren scored the equaliser in the 77th minute, which proved to be the catalyst for the winner just 3 min from time. Former Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva scored the winning goal to break the hearts of Wales.
“We made the right substitutions and ground out a hard-fought win after falling behind but it was a strange feeling to chase the game because it’s the first time we had fallen behind in this qualifying campaign. We started with Milan Badelj to rest the young Kovacic, who had a great international debut against Serbia, but Badelj was well below par and we had to make changes in order to move up a gear in the closing stages,” said Stimac after the match. Croatia’s next match will be against Scotland in June.