Wales 1-1 Croatia: Euro 2020 qualifier – as it happened

Last modified: 08: 56 PM GMT+0

Gareth Bale’s masterful equaliser earned Wales an important point against the World Cup finalists in a bruising game of few chances

Here’s Dan James “We knew it would be tough. There were a few tackles flying in but you expect that in these games. I’m fine – he caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out unfortunately … fortunately, sorry! We showed character to come from behind and it’s a good result against a great team.

So, Wales earn an honourable draw against Croatia in a bruising game of few chances. Gareth Bale scored a masterful equaliser just before half-time after an early goal from Nikola Vlasic; and though Bale’s goal should have been ruled out for a foul by Ben Davies in the build-up, Wales deserved their draw on the balance of play.

The result means Wales should - should - qualify if they win their last two group matches against Azerbaijan (A) and Hungary (H). But it is, for the first time, out of their hands. If Slovakia win their last two matches, at home to Azerbaijan and away to Croatia, Wales will be out.


Full time: Wales 1-1 Croatia

Peep peep!

90+8 min Vlasic grossly overhits a through pass to Perisic. Had he weighted it correctly, Perisic would have been clear on goal. In his defence, the angles meant there was almost no margin for error.

90+6 min James is booked, a little harshly, for an aerial challenge on Jedvaj.

90+5 min One thing in Wales’ favour is that Croatia play their last group game before Hungary - in other words, they will need a point at home to Slovakia to be certain of qualification. And if they get that, Wales will qualify if they win away to Azerbaijan and at home to Hungary. They’dve took it.


90+4 min Croatia have completely dominated possession for the last 20 minutes, though their domination has been entirely sterile. In fact, I don’t think Wayne Hennessey has made a save since Perisic’s header in the 13th minute.

90+2 min Bale can barely move. He’s still on the pitch, but all he can really do is hop. It’s been a bruising game for both teams.

90 min The injured Modric is replaced by Milan Badelj. There will be eight minutes of added time. Bale is also limping heavily; Wales have used all their subs.

88 min Connor Roberts has a close-range shot blocked by Jedvaj. The chance came after an exhilarating run from Wilson, who was then flattened by Modric. The ball ran through to Tyler Roberts, who in turn picked out Connor Roberts. Modric is booked; both he and Wilson are still down.


86 min Kieffer Moore, who worked very hard without much reward, is replaced by Tyler Roberts.

86 min Allen is booked for a kick at Brekalo, who was leading a Croatia break. That means he’ll miss next month’s match in Azerbaijan.

85 min Rakitic is booked for a late lunge at Wilson.

84 min It increasingly looks like both teams have settled for a draw; or, at least, that they aren’t willing to take any risks in pursuit of victory.


83 min James makes good ground down the left, only to slice his cross out of play. The Wales attackers look tired.

80 min Wales need to be careful as Croatia are starting to pin them back. It’s harmless possession at the moment, at least.

77 min Croatia have had more of the ball in the last five minutes. It’s so delicately poised, and neither side knows whether to stick or twist. A draw is a decent enough result for both; a win would be pure gold.

75 min “No shame in Williams’ performance,” says Matt Dony. “When it comes to Wales, no one but Ramsey is truly ‘Ramseyish.’ Otherwise, 2016 would have been even better.”

73 min A draw would be a pretty good result for Wales. If it stays like this, they will qualify if they win their last two games unless Slovakia are victorious away to Croatia.

72 min Jedvaj, teed up by Rebic 20 yards from goal, spins a sweet shot with the outside of the right foot that drifts a few yards wide. Hennessexy had it covered.

70 min Perisic is lucky not to be booked for a foul on the breaking Wilson.

68 min Another Wales change: Harry Wilson replaces Jonny Williams, who did some nice things without quite having a Ramseyish influence.

68 min “I know the Guardian does not encourage violence to either fish or full-back,” says Ian Copestake. “But just in case memories of Joe Jordan have faded here’s a refresher.”

67 min Apart from the first 15 minutes, Wales have been the equal of the World Cup finalists. There’s merit in that, for all the frustration over Giggs’s tactics.

66 min “Just curious,” says Bob Kenyon. “Do you take the time to make every mention of Wales a link to a webpage, or does it happen by magic?”

The latter. In fact, I had no idea it happened.

65 min After a fine move from Croatia, Perisic’s dangerous cutback is crucially cleared by Roberts.

64 min If Croatia draw tonight, they will need a draw in their final game at home to Slovakia to be sure of qualifying. It’s a bit too close for comfort.

63 min Croatia make another change, with Ante Rebic replacing Bruno Petkovic.

61 min Bale goes on a scintillating run, beating Rakitic, Modric and Barisic before losing his balance just inside the area. There was a slight touch from Barisic, though Bale stayed on his feet and the only penalty appeals came from the crowd.


61 min This is anyone’s game. Wales have played with greater snap since half-time. Ethan Ampadu, meanwhile, has just returned to the Wales bench after being assessed by the medical staff.

59 min “Evening Rob,” says Simon McMahon. “I feel a bit for Wales (and both Irish teams), what with their realistic prospects of qualification. There’s a lot to be said for the Scottish method of total inadequacy, punctuated by the odd shellacking of a part-time pub team, with no chance of qualification, and therefore no resulting disappointment. The Manchester United of international football, if you will.”

That’s a bit harsh on Chelsea.

58 min Moore is booked for a high tackle on Lovren.

Wales’ Kieffer Moore has a yellow card to his name.
Wales’ Kieffer Moore has a yellow card to his name. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA


57 min Perisic’s dangerous cross from the right hits the arm of Jedvaj. Kuipers awards a free-kick to Wales, which is a relief to those with memories of Joe Jordan.

55 min Wales are having a fine spell. James runs at Lovren on the left side of the box, shifts the ball down the line and cracks a shot from a tight angle that is blocked by Livakovic. He couldn’t hold it but there were no Wales players around to take advantage.

53 min “For a man who only played under Alex Ferguson at club level, it’s odd that the main feature of Giggs’ team is players looking to pass sideways or backwards at the first opportunity,” says Jonny Bull. “Wales thrived under Speed and Coleman, who set the team up to emphasise their strengths. The flashes of quality this team shows seem to come when they don’t follow the plan.”

It’s odd – I would have bet my dignity on a Giggs team playing with aggression and high tempo.

51 min I forgot to say, because of that Ampadu injury, that Ivan Rakitic replaced the injured Mateo Kovacic at half-time.

50 min “Well,” says Matt Dony. “If there’s going to be controversy, I’m pretty sure I’d rather the moral ambiguity of a foul-not-given over Lawrence potentially coming on and making a difference.”

49 min Ampadu is helped from the field, not on a stretcher, and Morrell replaces him.

48 min Ampadu is still down, and a stretcher is being brought onto the pitch. Lincoln’s Joe Morrell is getting ready to replace him. I’m not sure whether Ampadu was injured by the contact with Petkovic of the landing.

46 min Petkovic is booked after 15 seconds of the second half for flattening Ampadu as the pair jumped for a high ball.

That three-touch finish from Bale gets better every time you see it. His touch and awareness in such a tight space - and under such pressure - were so classy. It was definitely a foul by Davies in the build-up; he got the ball, but came through Kovacic to get it.

“Fail to see how not pressing the opposition at all in their half when you basically need to win is a good idea, especially when they are leaving Modric free rein,” says Nick Goolding. “Great equaliser though - looked like Ben Davies didn’t get the memo and went on a rampage.”

Half time: Wales 1-1 Croatia

Peep peep! Gareth Bale’s superb - and controversial - injury-time equaliser has changed the mood in Cardiff. Croatia were comfortable through the first half, and deservedly led through Nikola Vlasic’s early goal.


45+6 min Croatia finally kick off. Kovacic has limped off in a manner which suggests we won’t see him for the second half.

45+5 min Lovren has been booked for dissent. Croatia still haven’t kicked off because of the Kovacic injury.

45+5 min Kovacic is still down, having been clattered by Davies in the build up.

Davies charged forward from the halfway line and slid the ball towards Bale on the edge of the box. He couldn’t control it, but Davies won the loose ball with a very strong - and probably illegal - tackle on Kovacic 30 yards from goal. Then he got his head up and slid a fine angled pass to Bale just inside the box, to the left of centre. He controlled it deftly on the run, moved it away from Lovren and slid a precise low shot across Livakovic. That was classily taken by Bale, because he had very little space in which to work. All three touches were immaculate.


GOAL! Wales 1-1 Croatia (Bale 45+3)

Superb goal! Croatia will be fuming but it was beautifully taken.

Wales’ Gareth Bale scores.
Wales’ Gareth Bale scores. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters
Bale celebrates.
Bale celebrates. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters


45 min There will be four minutes of added time.

44 min Modric, for the umpteen hundredth time in his career, has had the most touches of anyone on the field. It’s his game; the other 21 just play in it.

42 min Wales need more from James and especially Bale, who looks nowhere near his awesome best.

Gareth Bale signals to his team-mates.
Gareth Bale signals to his team-mates. Photograph: Kieran McManus/BPI/REX/Shutterstock


37 min Petkovic wins a ... goalkick for Wales. That should have been a corner.

35 min Although Wales are playing better, they can’t lay a glove on the Croatia defence. Kieffer Moore, who had such a fine full debut against Slovakia, hasn’t seen much of the ball tonight.

33 min “Hey Rob,” says J.R. in Illinois. “I’ll preface this by saying I’m not a doctor but there is no way Daniel James should be playing right now and there’s no way he was adequately tested for a concussion in a couple minutes on the pitch. He was unconscious. Here in the U.S. the announcer, Taylor Twellman, who knows a thing or two about concussions, said the decision to let James keep playing was ‘disgusting’ and I agree with him. European football is for some reason lagging behind on this issue.”

I don’t know enough – about concussions, never mind this specific incident – to comment. It’s so easy to say it’s disgusting, etc, etc, and I don’t doubt there have been examples of players being allowed back on the field when they should not have been. But I suspect there have been many more examples of decent, experienced medical professionals being abused without just cause.

30 min There’s a break in play because of a pitch invasion. The gentleman in question, his trousers so low that all concerned can appreciate his red underpants with white band, is now being bundled off the field. You

29 min A quiet period in the game. It’s a more even contest now, though Wales have yet to create a serious chance.

Wales’ Kieffer Moore (left) and Croatia’s Mateo Kovacic battle for the ball.
Wales’ Kieffer Moore (left) and Croatia’s Mateo Kovacic battle for the ball. Photograph: Nigel French/PA


26 min Kovacic plays a nice short pass to Perisic, who is in the act of shooting when Davies comes on the blindside to make a vital interception.

22 min Davies wins a corner for Wales, who have come to life since James was flattened by Vida. Nothing comes of it but the last five minutes have been much more encouraging.

21 min “Am I the only one who thinks that a team in red shouldn’t be allowed to play a team in black?” says Matt Burtz. “There’s contrast with the numbers and the trim, sure, but at first glance it’s not great. Oh, and as an Everton fan, the lack of playing time that Vlasic got, and then his quick loan and sale, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

It can’t be much fun being the taste buds of an Everton fan.


20 min Bale rams his free-kick into the wall, flattening Petkoric in the process. The referee stops plays so that he can receive treatment.

19 min Modric is adjudged to have fouled Moore, 25 yards from goal. It looked soft, but Wales won’t care if Bale roofs one from here.

18 min “You (quite understandably) didn’t mention the League of Nations or Nations League or whatever it is playoff route to Euro 2020 in your preamble, but I think if Denmark qualify then Wales would be in the playoffs even if they finish 4th in their group,” says Phil Grey. “I could be wrong. I could be right.”

16 min James gets to his feet, looking very groggy. He’s going to continue, so I assume he has passed a concussion test.


15 min Vida is pretty lucky to get way with a yellow card. It was a flying knee in the head, basically, as James shaped to control a high ball. James is still being treated, though he is conscious. The immediate reaction from the Croatia players was really worrying.


14 min A horrible collision between James and Vida near the halfway line. This looks really nasty, and the physios were onto the field even before the referee had stopped play. One of the Croatia players was also frantically waving them on as he ran straight towards James. Vida has been booked, and James is still down receiving treatment.

Daniel James of Wales is fouled by Domagoj Vida of Croatia.
Daniel James of Wales is fouled by Domagoj Vida of Croatia. Photograph: Athena Pictures/Getty Images
James lies injured.
James lies injured. Photograph: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans/REX/Shutterstock


13 min: Excellent save from Hennessey! Croatia are playing superbly. Petkovic, on the left wing, swings a long cross/pass over the Wales defence to find Perisic near the penalty spot. He flicks a header towards the bottom corner, and Hennessey scrambles to his left to push it round the post. I thought that was going to sneak in.

12 min If Wales lose tonight, they will only qualify if they win their last two games and Croatia win their final match at home to Slovakia. Not at all beyond the realms, although Croatia will already have qualified if they win this match.

11 min Bale cuts infield and hits a shot that is comfortably saved by Livakovic.

A dreadful start for Wales. Brekalo surged down the left before moving infield, away from Lockyer. He pushed the ball back to Petkovic, who in turn teed up Vlasic on the edge of the box. His low shot, though not especially well struck, was precise enough to beat the diving Hennessey and go into the net off the post.

GOAL! Wales 0-1 Croatia (Vlasic 9)


Nikola Vlasic of Croatia scores his side’s first goal.
Nikola Vlasic of Croatia scores his side’s first goal. Photograph: Ryan Hiscott/JMP/REX/Shutterstock
Croatia’s Nikola Vlasic (centre) celebrates scoring the opening goal with team-mate Ivan Perisic.
Croatia’s Nikola Vlasic (centre) celebrates scoring the opening goal with team-mate Ivan Perisic. Photograph: Kevin Barnes - CameraSport/CameraSport via Getty Images


8 min Wales appeal for a penalty when Lovren shoulder barges the charging James off the field. It was a risky challenge, that - probably not enough for a penalty, but it was close.

8 min Croatia continue to dominate, though everything has been in front of the Wales defence.

6 min A long ball is headed down by Petkovic to Brekalo, who slashes the bouncing ball well wide from 20 yards.

4 min It’s been a confident, authoritative start from Croatia, with the first few minutes taking place almost exclusively in the Wales half.

1 min Peep peep! Croatia, in their dark blue and black away strip, kick off from right to left. Wales are in red.

There’s a storming atmosphere in Cardiff, as you’d expect. The captains Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, team-mates for most of the last 11 years, embrace in the centre circle.

Ben Davies, Ethan Ampadu and Tom Lockyer of Wales sing the national anthem.
Ben Davies, Ethan Ampadu and Tom Lockyer of Wales sing the national anthem. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Getty Images


“Please knock off the anti-Welsh stuff,” says David Crouch. “Welsh is not the language of animals.”



“Reit, mae’r bechgyn rygbi wedi gwneud eu gwaith,” says Matt Dony. “Nawr, dyma dro’r bechgyn pêl-droed.”

Funnily enough I just said exactly the same thing to my dog, Pêl-droed.


Italy and Russia have qualified for Euro 2020. They join Belgium, who were the first team to confirm their place at next summer’s jamboree.

Hungary 1-0 Azerbaijan is the final score in Budapest. It seems Bahlul Mustafazade had an injury-time equaliser dubiously ruled out for handball. It doesn’t change Wales’ task, as they would have budgeted for a Hungary win, but it would have been a lovely boost going into the Croatia game.

I’m still trying to find out what happened in the Hungary match, but the official Uefa site briefly said it was 1-1.

Hang on, it’s been ruled out!

Azerbaijan have scored an injury-time in equaliser in Hungary! That’s a huge boost for Wales.

Team news

Wales are unchanged. Croatia are without Marcelo Brozovic, who is suspended, while Ivan Rakitic and Ante Rebic drop to the bench.

Wales (4-2-3-1) Hennessey; Roberts, Rodon, Lockyer, Davies; Allen, Ampadu; Bale, J Williams, James; Moore.
Substitutes: Ward, Davies, Gunter, N Taylor, A Williams, Roberts, Vokes, Wilson, Morrell, Lawrence, Matondo, Vaulks.

Croatia (4-2-3-1) Livakovic; Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Barisic; Modric, Kovacic; Perisic, Vlasic, Brekalo; Petkovic.
Substitutes: Kalinic, Sluga, Melnjak, Peric, Rakitic, Orsic, Bradaric, Skoric, Pasalic, Rebic, Badelj, Bartolec.

Referee Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands).


Hello. Three games, then. Three games for Wales to qualify for another European Championship: Croatia at home tonight, then Azerbaijan (A) and Hungary (H) next month. If they win the lot they will be at Euro 2020, although there’s a credible scenario whereby two wins is enough.

It’s all pretty complicated, but in essence a draw tonight would be a very good result for Wales, never mind a win, and even defeat would not completely crush the dreams of small children who were too young for Euro 2016 and dream of seeing their side at a major tournament.

Although Wales are playing the World Cup finalists, and are without the injured Aaron Ramsey, they will quietly fancy their chances tonight. Their home record under Ryan Giggs is pretty solid, even if the performances haven’t always been convincing, while Croatia’s away form in this group hasn’t been great. They hammered Slovakia 4-0, sure, bring that up if you must, but they also lost in Hungary and drew in Azerbaijan.

Those results mean they can’t take anything for granted in this group. A win tonight would ensure qualification for Euro 2020; a defeat would leave them vulnerable to a potential sting when they host Slovakia in their final game.

Kick off is at 7.45pm.


Rob Smyth

The GuardianTramp

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