From the vault. Croatia 1 Wales 1. 21st of August 2002

Welcome to our ongoing series looking at past Welsh games over our history for memorable reasons, either positive or negative or before a big upcoming match, look at a game between the two respective sides from history.

When it comes to matches between Wales and Croatia then trying to remain on a positive note, it becomes very challenging. Four times the two proud nations have met, with Croatia winning three and with one draw, which is the game I have picked to use for this article.

In 2002 in Varazdin which is in the north of the country the two played in an international friendly. Mark Hughes led Wales, went into the game as very much the underdogs but got off to a fantastic start when in the eleventh minute, Simon Davies had the ball just inside his half, Davies as was his way, immediately looked to attack with pace, and glided effortlessly past two Croatian players, as he approached the Croatian penalty box he did have options to pass, but Davies gracefully went past the last defender with a great bit of skill. As he got into the penalty box the Croatian keeper, Pletikosa came out to narrow the angle; Davies calmly placed his shot under the keeper’s body and into the Croatian net. It was Davies’s first goal for Wales and what a goal it was from this fine footballer.

Croatia was in shock from going behind and in their 100th international as a country, quickly tried to turn around this deficit, and Paul Jones in the Welsh goal was called into action to make some excellent saves from Maric and Simunic amongst others. At half-time, Croatia made five changes as they searched for the equaliser, but Wales almost scored a second when from a Mark Pembridge corner (who throughout his career was excellent at set pieces), was half cleared came to Simon Davies on the edge of the penalty box and his shot went inches wide.

Picture Credit: Maric and Delaney battling for possession.

As the game went on, then the Welsh fans in the stadium in the pouring rain started to believe they were going to see a great victory. However, in the 78th minute, the equaliser came. Paul Jones attempted to clear the ball only for it to hit Maric and then deflect to Petric who had the easy task of putting it into an empty net. It was so cruel to Wales. They were in control of the game, and tactically with the five-man midfield stopping any fluidity in the Croatian play and with Andy Melville and Danny Gabbidon in defence in total control, a win looked on the cards until that misfortune.

The game ended in a draw, which before the game would have been seen as a great result but now due to the events of the goal and after the performance took some shine off the performance and the outcome.

The two teams line ups that night was as follows:

Stipe Pletikosa
Robert Kovac
Josip Simunic
Boris Zivkovic
Niko Kovac
Milan Rapaic
Danijel Saric
Tomislav Maric
Goran Vlaovic
Filip Tapalovic

Paul Jones
Mark Delaney
Danny Gabbidon
Andy Melville
Darren Barnard
Simon Davies
Andy Johnson
Mark Pembridge
John Robinson
Robert Earnshaw
John Hartson
Used subs
Rhys Weston for Barnard
Gareth Taylor for Robinson
Paul Trollope for Earnshaw

So, we are still waiting on our first victory against Croatia. Will it be in Osijek on the 8th of June? Well, we certainly hope so. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Feature Picture Credit: