Zagreb, Sep 3: Croatia earned a crucial three points in the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying match against Kosovo on Sunday afternoon after play was halted on the previous evening because of heavy rain.
After Saturday’s interruption of the match, intense communication between the FIFA representatives and two federations followed and a meeting was scheduled for Sunday morning at 9 a.m. Prior to the meeting, FIFA Match Commisionare, referee and team representatives examined the pitch at Maksimir Stadium and agreed that the condition of the field was good, reports Xinhua news agency.
Taking into account the FIFA Rules, which require mandatory resumption of the match within 24 hours if the conditions on the field allow it, as well as the fact that it was almost impossible to find a new date for the match, it was decided that the match will be resumed on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. local time from the 22nd minute when it was interrupted.
Even though Croatia beat Kosovo convincingly in Skhoder a year ago, this string of events made the task for the Croats much more difficult and the opposition from the visitors was much stronger than in their first qualifying encounter.
Cheered on by 7,000 spectators at Maksimir Stadium on a cloudy but dry Sunday afternoon, the Croatian team tried to score as soon as possible but all their efforts ended up missing the target or in the hands of Kosovo custodian and captain Samir Ujkani.
When Croatian strikers, mainly Ivan Perisic of Inter Milan and Mario Mandzukic of Juventus Turin, couldn’t find the net, it was time for the defenders to step in and they just did that.
In the 74th minute, Dynamo Kiev full back Domagoj Vida met the cross from Real Madrid star Luka Modric and scored with a precise header from six metres range. This was enough for Croatia to win the important three points and take the top position in the group I with two points advantage over Ukraine.
Croatia lead the Group I of the European FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers with 16 points from seven matches. Ukraine are second with 14 points and Iceland are in the third place with 13 points.
On Tuesday next, some 53 hours after they managed to beat Kosovo, Ante Cacic’s troops will play in Esiksehir against Turkey in an intense atmposphere that Turkish fans can create and with home team desperate for a win that can keep them in a race for a place at the World Cup in Russia. Even a draw would keep Croatia on top of the standings with two matches remaining.
On October 6, Croatia will host Finland in Osijek. Three days later, the Croatian team will travel to Ukraine probably to play the match for the top spot that will earn them direct place at the World Cup. Second placed team will have to earn that spot through the playoffs scheduled in November.