Croatia 2 Wales 0: Lessons learned as Chris Coleman’s men lose in Osijek
Croatia 2 Wales 0: What lessons did we learn as Chris Coleman's side suffered a blow in their World Cup qualification hopes?
All but over for Wales
Just four games into this World Cup qualifying campaign and Wales are all but out even at this early stage. It was always going to be tough for Chris Coleman’s side, pitted in a group with three well-established European nations as well as Scotland and Macedonia but just three points for four games makes for grim reading for Welsh fans. They struggled from the off as the superior Croats dominated from start to finish in what was a must-win game for the home side. Some woeful defending allowed Mario Mandzukic to tap into an empty net after he closed down Lewis Price’s clearance to give Croatia the lead. The points were wrapped up when Eduardo tapped home following Price’s save, having missed several chances earlier in the match. Credit must go to the travelling Welsh fans, who were superbly vocal all night having endured another bleak 90 minutes.
Coleman should have made Bale captain
Gareth Bale has the potential to become one of the greatest players in Premier League history, he is one of very few playing in England’s top tier who has been compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but it appears his highest achievements will come at club level. So it will be of no shock to anyone if the Spurs winger calls it a day at international level early on, which begs the question: why didn’t Chris Coleman make Bale captain and thus maintain his interest and pride in playing for his country? Since his Welsh debut, his greatest moment came Friday when they fluked their way to a narrow win over Scotland, with glory on the pitch at a minimum Coleman should do everything he can to keep his best player on side. Everything Wales did well came through Bale and his superb late run on goal sums him up, beating four players before a great shot on goal. Once the armband was taken from Aaron Ramsey it should have gone to the Dragons’ only world-class player, Bale, not Ashley Williams, who has had a very poor season.
Croatia can go far in Brazil
Group A may well be seen as the ‘group of death’ with three top class sides in Serbia, Belgium and Croatia. With a solid back-line, Croatia boast Luka Modric in midfield and an array of brilliant strikers. Nikica Jelavic, Mario Mandzukic, Eduardo, Ivica Olic and Mladen Petric are all superb front men who would make many top countries’ squads. They have always been a decent side but this current squad could go very far in Brazil, although it will be tough to edge Belgium to first place in this qualifying group. Mario Mandzukic is one of their star men. What seemed a basic finish tonight was one very few players will score in their career; he never gave up the chase and put the pressure on Price before tapping in to an empty net. After finishing as joint top scorer at Euro 2012, Mandzukic is Croatia and Bayern Munich’s first-choice striker and both have a glittering set of forwards to choose from. Williams will verify just how much of a handful Mandzukic is after he gave the Swansea defender a torrid time tonight.
Just lump it, Ashley!
For the third time already this season, Ashley Williams has sent a back-pass to his goalkeeper which has resulted in conceding a goal. It happened against Sunderland and Aston Villa for Swansea and tonight it occurred again. Williams was one of Brendan Rodgers’ best players for the Swans but once in a while the new Welsh skipper could do with lumping the ball in to Row Z. Playing it out of defence is admirable but occasionally, actually three times already, it does not work.