Thursday, June 1, 2023

Croatia 1-1 Wales: What Were The Main Talking Points As The Dragons Snatch A Last-Gasp Qualifying Point In Zagreb?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, European Championships 26 Mar 2023

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Snatching what was a famous last-gasp point in Split on Saturday night, Wales opened their qualifying adventure with a 1-1 draw against Croatia.

While the Dragons might have known that they faced a huge challenge in their first post-World Cup appearance, things were not made any easier for Rob Page’s new-look squad as Andrej Kramaric opened the scoring in the 28th minute.

However, while it might have appeared that the World Cup bronze medalists were cruising their way to a deserved Group D victory, it was second-half substitute Nathan Broadhead who will steal most of the headlines here.

Although Wales might have largely been second best on Saturday night, the Ipswich attacker wrote himself into Welsh folklore after tapping home in the last few seconds of stoppage time.

While Page’s side might have left Split after completing a real smash-and-grab, there is no doubt that Croatia will be ruing what was a major missed opportunity on home soil.

Two nations who have their sights firmly set on securing a route out of Group D this year, we have taken a look at the main talking points from Saturday’s qualifying showdown.

Wales can show their fight without Bale

Enduring what was a real World Cup nightmare in the Middle East a few months ago and coming under a huge amount of scrutiny, Wales were almost getting a new era underway in Split.

Bagging just a single strike in Qatar and crashing out without making any kind of impact, there were some who questioned whether Page was the man to take Wales forward in 2023.

Now unable to call upon former Real Madrid talisman and national icon Gareth Bale after the 33-year-old hung up his boots earlier in the year, Page’s squad certainly has plenty of new faces.

However, although the Dragons might still find themselves in the midst of a nine-match winless run across all competitions – a run that stems back to June 2022 – they will take plenty of positives away from a remarkable late flurry here.

Completing what will be remembered as a famous smash-and-grab on Saturday night and watching debutant Broadhead bag what could be a crucial Group D point, Page was right to praise the grit that his inexperienced squad showed on foreign soil.

Although Wales are still a nation in transition following their World Cup struggles, Saturday’s guests have found a much-welcomed boost ahead of a grueling qualifying campaign.

Croatia miss a golden chance to make a qualifying statement

Making more World Cup history out in Qatar over the winter as they claimed a bronze medal, Croatia have only continued to gain a reputation for their ability to form on the biggest of stages.

Eventually leaving the Middle East with the scalp of pre-tournament favourites and South American icons Brazil, it is no secret that Zlatko Dalic’s men are tipped as a runaway pick to claim top spot in Group D.

However, while Saturday’s hosts might have dominated for large spells here, the Blazers will know that they missed out on a golden chance to make an early qualifying statement on home soil.

Although Croatia might still not have suffered a single European qualifying defeat in Split since way back in October 2013, Dalic will be calling on his side to prove that their late collapse was nothing more than a minor blip.

Gaining a string of plaudits as they claimed that bronze medal finish in Qatar a few months ago, the Vatreni don’t have much time to feel sorry for themselves.

Looking to claim their first Group D victory at the second attempt in midweek, Croatia will be next seen when they make the trip to Turkey on Tuesday night.

Can the Dragons find a route out of Group D?

Although Wales might have endured a rather public World Cup nightmare over the winter as they only managed to put a single point on the board, Page’s side are desperate to cement their spot as a regular on the international stage.

Simply looking to show that they aren’t suffering from a post-World Cup hangover this month, the Dragons have their sights firmly set on booking their European Championships ticket this year.

While Saturday’s guests might have known that they opened their Group D adventure with a heavyweight challenge in Split, Wales appear to be facing a scrap with Turkey to clinch that lucrative second qualifying spot.

Set to take plenty of positives away from Broadhead’s stunning last-gasp equaliser, Page’s squad will be eyeing a major chance to draw a line under their nine-match winless run in midweek.

Potentially looking to end the March international schedule sat at the top of Group D, Wales will be next seen when they welcome Latvia to Cardiff on Tuesday night.

Match Report

Croatia: Livakovic, Juranovic, Sutalo, Gvardiol, Sosa, Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic, Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic

Subs: Vlasic, Majer, Pasalic, Musa

Wales: Ward, Roberts, Mepham, Rodon, Williams, James, Ampadu, Morrell, Wilson, Ramsey, Moore

Subs: Bradshaw, James, Burns, Thomas, Broadhead

Goals: Croatia: Kramaric (28′) – Wales: Broadhead (90+3′)

Yellow Cards: Croatia: Juranovic – Wales: Ampadu

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Joao Pinheiro


Tom Dunstan

Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan



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