Next year, EURO 2024 will be held in Germany, and the Croatian national team will be at that competition
Croatia managed to qualify for another European Championship, its seventh continental championship in total. Since Croatia has been participating in the qualifications for major competitions, this is its 13th competition out of 15. It only failed to qualify for the EURO 2000, jointly organized by the Netherlands and Belgium, and the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa.
The appearance at the upcoming EURO 2024 was questionable until the very end of the qualifications. In fact, Croatia lost two very important matches in October. First, she lost to Turkey, then to Wales. But everything changed in November when Croatia recorded all the victories.
How did this qualifying cycle for EURO 2024 begin?
In March of 2023, Croatia welcomed Wales in Split. Croatia played 1:1 in front of more than 33,000 people. Croatia took the lead in the 28th minute of the match, and the scorer was Andrej Kramarić. Croatia seemed to have the first three points in the new qualification cycle, but a shock happened in stoppage time when Wales scored to equalize and thus take a point away from Croatia.
For a few days now, Croatia has been visiting, at least on paper, the most difficult opponent – Turkey. In front of 37,750 fans, Croatia won 2:0 in Bursa. Mateo Kovačić was the scorer of both goals. The first goal was scored in the 20th minute, and the second goal was scored in the 4th minute of stoppage time in the first half. That’s how this match was decided already in the first half.
In June, Croatia played the final of the League of Nations, where it lost to Spain in the final, so it continued to play its qualifying matches in September 2023. Latvia suffered a 5-0 defeat in Rijeka first. The goals were scored by Bruno Petković in the 3rd and 44th minute, Luka Ivanušec in the 13th minute, Andrej Kramarić in the 68th minute, and Mario Pašalić in the 78th minute.
Just a few days later, Croatia played against a difficult Armenia, which proved to be a tough opponent in this group. Croatia won 1:0, and the scorer of the only goal was Andrej Kramarić in the 13th minute of the match.
And then that black October came and two defeats that pushed Croatia into the abyss. Croatia was no longer dependent on itself after the defeat. First, Turkey won in Osijek 1:0 with a goal by Yilmaz in the 30th minute of the match. After that, Croatia lost the match on the road in Cardiff after a gift from the Croatian defense. Harry Wilson scored in the 47th and 60th minutes for a big 2:0, but Pašalić reduced it in the 75th minute of the match. These two meetings were the worst edition of Croatia. However, at that moment key players such as Perišić, Petković, Kramarić, and others were missing.
Fortune follows the brave and always gives the brave a chance to repair
What would Croatia be like without drama? However, fortune always follows us, and may it remain so. Croatia entered the last two qualifying matches in such a way that it had to win regardless of the other results in the group. Namely, Croatia first visited Latvia in Riga, when Wales and Armenia played. Croatia won 2:0, while Wales and Armenia played 1:1. Wales still had a chance for direct qualification, while Armenia was left with no chance.
In the last qualifying match, Croatia defeated Armenia 1:0, and the scorer was Ante Budimir in the 43rd minute of the match after Borna Sosa’s cross. Thus, Turkey and Croatia go directly to EURO 2024 from this group, and Wales goes to the additional qualifications.
What will Croatia look like at EURO 2024?
It is known that Croatia was without Ivan Perišić, who has a ligament injury, for the last four qualifying matches, and Bruno Petković has not fully recovered from his injury yet. Kramarić is also prone to injuries, and there are other players who vary with their form and you never know what kind of fitness they will be in for EURO 2024. Nikola Vlašić is too slow, and for some, it is better to leave soccer.
The real hit as far as the players are concerned is Marco Pašalić, who is a member of Rijeka from this season. However, in what form will Ivan Perišić be, who needs a long time to recover, and is one of the best players? Bruno Petković still has a chance to get in shape, if only he doesn’t get injured again. If everything goes according to plan and if there are no injuries, Croatia could be a very serious contender for a high ranking at the European Championship.
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