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Croatia reaches 2022 World Cup after drastically surpassing group leaders Russia

England’s 2018 conquerors Croatia dramatically reach the Qatar World Cup after beating Russia in the final stages of their final group match … thanks to an own goal from Fedor Kudryashov

  • The match was played in torrential rain as Russia’s goalkeeper Matvei Safonov shone
  • But he could do nothing when the bullet ricocheted off Fedor Kudryashov and on
  • The visitors needed a draw to qualify automatically and are now in the play-offs
  • Croatia have become the seventh team to reach the final in 2022


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Croatia secured an automatic place in next year’s World Cup finals in dramatic fashion when an own goal by Fedor Kudryashov gave them a 1-0 home win over Russia in their Group qualifying match. D on Sunday.

Croatia, runners-up in the 2018 World Cup, leapt above Russia to top the standings with 23 points from 10 games, one more than the second-place Russians heading into the March play-offs.

Croatia dominated a match played in torrential rain, but a series of good saves by visiting goalkeeper Matvei Safonov and a soggy field kept them at bay before Kudryashov’s clumsy touch in the 80th minute delighted the home fans.

Croatia players celebrate after Fedor Kudryashov's late own goal has finally passed them

Croatia players celebrate after Fedor Kudryashov’s late own goal has finally passed them

The winner bounced off Kudryashov after a hopeful cross from left-back Borna Sosa

The winner bounced off Kudryashov after a hopeful cross from left-back Borna Sosa

The winner bounced off Kudryashov after a hopeful cross from left-back Borna Sosa

Needing a draw to automatically qualify, the Russians defended with everyone behind the ball and absorbed intense pressure as the Croats besieged their goal but failed to create clear chances.

Andrej Kramaric headed straight for Safonov in the ninth minute before Marcelo Brozovic launched two long-range attempts, one sailing inches wide and the other landing an acrobatic save from the visiting goalkeeper.

Safonov kept out a Mario Pasalic header from close range with a magnificent save in the 47th minute and the Russians appeared to be home and dry before being undone by a Kudryashov error.

Away goalkeeper Matvei Safonov did well in difficult conditions before the cruel body shot

Away goalkeeper Matvei Safonov did well in difficult conditions before the cruel body shot

Away goalkeeper Matvei Safonov did well in difficult conditions before the cruel body shot

Croatia is the fourth European team to qualify for Qatar after Denmark, Belgium and France.

Croatia is the fourth European team to qualify for Qatar after Denmark, Belgium and France.

Croatia is the fourth European team to qualify for Qatar after Denmark, Belgium and France.

With waves of Croatian attacks losing momentum on a difficult field, left-back Borna Sosa floated into a hopeful cross from the left and Kudryashov shoved the ball into his own net after it bounced awkwardly in front of him.

Russia lost their only chance to save the game from their first fluid move in injury time, Vyacheslav Karavaev shot over the bar from 20 yards.

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