Croatia is on the verge of qualifying for next year’s European Championship after beating Latvia 2-0 on Saturday as its closest rival Wales dropped points in a 1-1 draw with Armenia.
Early goals from Lovro Majer and Andrej Kramarić gave Croatia a comfortable victory at last-place Latvia.
Croatia will secure a qualifying spot on Tuesday with a win over Armenia in its last game or if Wales fails to beat Group D leader Turkey.
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Wales’ players started the day knowing that winning their last two games would ensure qualification but trailed after just five minutes.
They suffered a terrible start when the home side’s Lucas Zelarayan cut in and fired a shot into the bottom corner after five minutes.
Wales struggled to gain control but had a huge stroke of luck in first-half stoppage time when a long throw-in by Connor Roberts went in off the head of Armenia’s Nair Tiknizyan.
Wales went into halftime level but created little in the second half as Armenia looked the more likely team to win.
A wide-open second half failed to separate the sides with Armenia’s Vahan Bichakhchyan denied by the crossbar and the hosts also wasting several other opportunities.
Only two of Armenia’s 19 shots were on target, though, and the draw meant Armenia’s slim chances of qualifying were ended when Croatia won its game.
Zlatko Dalić on the Armenia vs. Wales match:“I was thinking that dear God gave us another chance. We deserved it and got it. It’s up to us to make use of it. I hope that we will all celebrate together in Zagreb. I invite all the fans, if the stadium isn’t sold out yet, to buy… pic.twitter.com/qGFbKeXflR
— (@TheCroatianLad) November 18, 2023
Wales previously won one of its games with World Cup semifinalist Croatia and drew the other but a 4-2 loss at home to Armenia in March was costly.
Wales needed to beat Armenia, and Turkey next week, to guarantee qualification, but their fate is now out of their hands. They have 11 points from seven games, five behind group leaders Turkey, but Croatia will go into second place if they beat Latvia later on Saturday.
The Netherlands, Switzerland and Romania can all secure European Championship spots later Saturday.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Associated Press)