European Championship Qualifying - Group E
Croatia2Wales1

Croatia 2-1 Wales: Poor defending as Wales suffer first Euro 2020 qualifying defeat

Ivan Perisic scores Croatia's second goal
Perisic scored Croatia's second goal with their first shot on target of the match

A late Wales revival in Croatia proved in vain as Ryan Giggs' side suffered a setback in their bid to reach Euro 2020.

The hosts, who have never lost at home in European Championship qualifying, took the lead in the searing Osijek heat as James Lawrence turned Ivan Perisic's powerful, low cross into his own net.

Wales threatened to level but always looked vulnerable at the back and one episode of particularly calamitous defending early in the second half allowed Perisic to score the World Cup finalists' second goal.

Gareth Bale fanned the flames of a Welsh comeback with a handful of well-struck shots, and those faint hopes looked more like genuine belief when substitute David Brooks scored from 20 yards via a deflection.

But despite their late efforts in severely draining conditions - with a stretching Brooks agonisingly close to scoring a second - Wales fell short of snatching what would have been a valuable point.

Having beaten Slovakia in their opening fixture in March, Wales are now third in Group E, three points behind leaders and top seeds Croatia.

On Tuesday Giggs' men visit Hungary, who are away against Azerbaijan in the group's late kick-off on Saturday.

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Giggs 'disappointed' by Croatia defeat

Wounded Croatia expose Wales

This was Giggs' 12th match in charge of his country and undoubtedly his toughest to date.

Croatia's unbeaten run at home in Euro qualifiers now stands at 32, a sequence that started with their first in 1994 - and they had not lost a home fixture of any sort since 2013, a run of 23 games.

Yet since reaching last year's World Cup final, Zlatko Dalic's side had endured a chastening Nations League campaign - humiliated 6-0 by Spain and beaten by England - before losing unexpectedly to Hungary in their second Euro 2020 qualifier.

Following those failures, Croatia were under pressure to win against Wales and they were quick to seize control as the temperature soared towards 30C.

Their captain and Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric was typically composed and, with Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic, formed a formidable midfield triumvirate.

As much as the hosts bossed possession, there were openings for Wales but two precious first-half chances were squandered by Harry Wilson and Will Vaulks.

The risk Wales took by attacking was to leave their defence exposed, with Perisic regularly finding himself in space on Croatia's left.

He had a handful of efforts on goal before forcing Croatia's opener and, even after that, Wales did not heed the warning.

Moments after a narrow escape when the hosts had a goal disallowed for offside, Wales' abject failure to clear their lines presented Perisic with a chance at the back post he gleefully accepted by rifling the ball past Wayne Hennessey.

Wales were in danger of a severe beating at this point but they were lifted by Brooks' introduction, with the Bournemouth youngster turning neatly to create the space for his shot which found the net thanks to a deflection from Domagoj Vida.

The Croatia centre-back was one of five home players to be booked, evidence of how Dalic's side were troubled by their opponents even as they monopolised possession for long periods.

This was more than a scare for the World Cup runners-up but, while Wales may take heart from their late rally, they may reflect on this game as an opportunity wasted because of their slipshod defending.

Giggs' work in progress

Wales are a work in progress under Giggs, a young side with rich attacking promise but occasionally naive and vulnerable defensively.

Those frailties were laid bare by Croatia's opening goal, as Modric's long ball found Perisic with an alarming amount of space on the left after Connor Roberts had broken forward with nobody covering for him at right-back.

Hennessey might have closed down Perisic but his hesitation gave the Inter Milan player enough time to drill a dangerous cross across goal, where Lawrence had little chance of doing anything other than scoring an own goal.

Croatia's second made for even worse viewing from a Welsh perspective, as several players failed to deal with a loose ball in the penalty area before it finally made its way to Perisic at the back post.

The positive for Wales is that, at this point when they looked set to capitulate, they actually improved.

Bale, whose influence has waned in recent games, brushed off Croatia's ugly attempts to kick him out of the game and attacked with purpose in the second half.

Brooks added to his burgeoning reputation with a bright display from the bench, while Joe Allen and his midfield colleagues Matt Smith and Vaulks battled valiantly against their impressive opponents in the exhausting heat.

But for all those notes of encouragement, there was a foreboding familiarity to the way in which Giggs' side contributed to their own downfall with their defensive mistakes.

There may still be a bright future for this young group of players but there are some worrying trends forming under Giggs, which the former Wales captain will need to address if he is to guide his nation to only a third major tournament in its history.

Man of the match - Ivan Perisic

A player of his standing should not be given so much time and space, and the Inter player punished Wales with a goal, an assist and a menacing all-round attacking display.

Match stats - Wales have never beaten Croatia

  • Wales have failed to win any of their five games against Croatia (D1 L4), losing the last four and conceding twice in each of those defeats.
  • Croatia have won their last four home matches since drawing 0-0 with England in the Nations League in October 2018.
  • Wales have lost four of their last five away matches - winning the other one - as many as they had lost in their previous 14 (W5 D5 L4).
  • Jamie Lawrence is the first player to score an own goal for Wales since Ashley Williams against Iceland in March 2014, five years and 95 days ago.
  • Since the start of 2018, Ivan Perisic has scored more goals for Croatia (six) than any other player. However this was his first goal for his country in seven matches since September.
  • David Brooks' strike was his first goal for Wales in his 11th appearance. He is the first player to score as a substitute for Wales since Ben Woodburn against Austria in September 2017.

Line-ups

Croatia

  • 1Livakovic
  • 16JedvajBooked at 50mins
  • 6LovrenBooked at 54mins
  • 21VidaBooked at 69mins
  • 3Barisic
  • 10Modric
  • 11BrozovicBooked at 90mins
  • 7BrekaloBooked at 28minsSubstituted forPasalicat 66'minutes
  • 8KovacicSubstituted forBadeljat 76'minutes
  • 4PerisicSubstituted forSkoricat 90+3'minutes
  • 9Kramaric

Substitutes

  • 2Melnjak
  • 5Caleta-Car
  • 12L Kalinic
  • 13Skoric
  • 14Benkovic
  • 15Pasalic
  • 17Halilovic
  • 18Caktas
  • 19Badelj
  • 20Petkovic
  • 22Bartolec
  • 23Sluga

Wales

  • 1Hennessey
  • 14Roberts
  • 5Mepham
  • 15Lawrence
  • 4Davies
  • 23VaulksSubstituted forAmpaduat 66'minutes
  • 7Allen
  • 8SmithSubstituted forBrooksat 65'minutes
  • 11BaleBooked at 48mins
  • 10H Wilson
  • 20JamesSubstituted forMatondoat 79'minutes

Substitutes

  • 2Gunter
  • 3Taylor
  • 6Williams
  • 9Vokes
  • 12Ward
  • 13Levitt
  • 16Brooks
  • 17Matondo
  • 18Ampadu
  • 19Lawrence
  • 21Davies
  • 22Lockyer
Referee:
István Kovács

Match Stats

Home TeamCroatiaAway TeamWales
Possession
Home63%
Away37%
Shots
Home10
Away10
Shots on Target
Home2
Away6
Corners
Home1
Away3
Fouls
Home15
Away6

Live Text

Match ends, Croatia 2, Wales 1.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Croatia 2, Wales 1.

Foul by Mile Skoric (Croatia).

Ethan Ampadu (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt blocked. Mario Pasalic (Croatia) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Mile Skoric.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Substitution

Substitution, Croatia. Mile Skoric replaces Ivan Perisic.

Delay in match because of an injury Ivan Perisic (Croatia).

Booking

Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia).

Rabbi Matondo (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt saved. David Brooks (Wales) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Gareth Bale.

Attempt saved. Andrej Kramaric (Croatia) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mario Pasalic with a through ball.

Attempt missed. Harry Wilson (Wales) header from a difficult angle on the right is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Gareth Bale with a cross.

Attempt missed. Andrej Kramaric (Croatia) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Luka Modric with a through ball.

Luka Modric (Croatia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Jamie Lawrence (Wales).

Borna Barisic (Croatia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Rabbi Matondo (Wales).

Attempt missed. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Andrej Kramaric.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Marcelo Brozovic.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Substitution

Substitution, Wales. Rabbi Matondo replaces Daniel James.

Delay in match because of an injury Tin Jedvaj (Croatia).

Goal!

Goal! Croatia 2, Wales 1. David Brooks (Wales) right footed shot from outside the box to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Connor Roberts.

Substitution

Substitution, Croatia. Milan Badelj replaces Mateo Kovacic.

Attempt missed. Joe Allen (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right following a corner.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Dominik Livakovic.

Attempt saved. Gareth Bale (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

Foul by Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia).

Joe Allen (Wales) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match (Croatia).

Booking

Domagoj Vida (Croatia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Mateo Kovacic (Croatia).

Connor Roberts (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Croatia. Mario Pasalic replaces Josip Brekalo.

Substitution

Substitution, Wales. Ethan Ampadu replaces Will Vaulks.

Substitution

Substitution, Wales. David Brooks replaces Matthew Smith.

Hand ball by Joe Allen (Wales).

goal

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Saturday 8th June 2019

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1England220010196
2Czech Rep210126-43
3Kosovo20202202
4Bulgaria302134-12
5Montenegro302137-42

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Ukraine32107167
2Luxembourg31114404
3Portugal20201102
4Lithuania201123-11
5Serbia201116-51

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Northern Ireland33006249
2Germany22005236
3Netherlands21016333
4Estonia200214-30
5Belarus300318-70

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1R. of Ireland32103127
2Switzerland21105324
3Georgia31023303
4Denmark20204402
5Gibraltar200204-40

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Hungary32015416
2Croatia32015416
3Wales21012203
4Slovakia21012113
5Azerbaijan200225-30

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Spain33008269
2Sweden32108447
3Romania31117524
4Malta310226-43
5Norway302167-12
6Faroe Islands3003310-70

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Poland33004049
2Israel32108357
3North Macedonia31114314
4Austria310235-23
5Slovenia302123-12
6Latvia300318-70

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Turkey33008089
2France32018356
3Iceland320134-16
4Albania31023303
5Moldova310228-63
6Andorra300306-60

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium33008179
2Russia3201143116
3Scotland32014406
4Cyprus31026423
5Kazakhstan310237-43
6San Marino3003016-160

J

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Italy3300110119
2Finland32014226
3Greece311145-14
4Bos-Herze311145-14
5Armenia31024403
6Liechtenstein3003011-110
View full European Championship Qualifying tables

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