Croatia won the second game of its qualifying campaign for World Cup 2018 on Thursday night against Kosovo by a score of 6-0. They did so after having played the first game against Turkey to a 1-1 draw last month.
Despite numerous key absences due to injuries, some inaccurate passing in their build-up play and a few major missed goal scoring opportunities, victory for the Vatreni was hardly ever in serious doubt in the course of the ninety minutes.
(Photo via zimbio.com)
While the national team of Kosovo showed that it has some quality when in possession, that alone was simply was not good enough in order to accept the at times outright gifts that the Croats gave them with their lackluster passing, especially early on. To paraphrase Franz Beckenbauer’s legendary analysis of Bayern Munich games in the 1990s, Croatia was begging to get scored on.
As often happens in soccer however, when one team fails to score, their opponents punish them. That is when the superior quality of a striker like Mario Mandžukić becomes decisive (albeit a superior quality that he has failed to show in recent months for both the Croatan national team and his club Juventus).
In this game, he scored three goals in the space of about half an hour, thus ending the match as a contest before halftime. In the second half, substitute defender Matej Mitrović, Ivan Perišić and Nikola Kalinić finished the scoring.
The game was historic in that it was the first official home match for Kosovo (despite having actually been played in Albania. Kosovo is still building as a national team, after gaining FIFA membership just earlier this year.
While soccer’s world governing body generally has strict rules when it comes to players switching national teams, there is speculation that star names of Kosovar heritage such as Adnan Januzaj and Xherdan Shaqiri among others may obtain special permission to do that.
That story may be one of the most interesting ones to follow on the international scene, but it does not change the fact that many people connected to the Beautiful Game find these lopsided qualifying encounters and the drawn-out national team campaigns in general to be boring, not to say pointless distractions from club soccer.
Nonetheless they give us one more topic to talk and write about.