World Cup qualifying round: Croatia reaches Qatar 2022 after late own goal | World Cup 2022 qualifiers

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Croatia got an automatic berth in next year’s World Cup finals in dramatic fashion when a late Fedor Kudryashov own goal gave them a 1-0 home win over Russia in their crunchy Group D qualifier on Sunday.

Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runner-up, jumped over Russia to top the standings with 23 points from 10 matches, one more than the Russians in second place, who are due to enter the March play-offs.

Croatia dominated a game played in torrential rain, but a series of good saves by visiting goalkeeper Matvei Safonov and a water-filled pitch kept them in check before Kudryashov’s clumsy touch in the 80th minute delighted the home fans.

When they needed a draw to qualify, the Russians defended with everyone behind the ball and sucked in an intense pressure as the Croats besieged their goal but failed to create clear chances.

Quick guide

UEFA World Cup qualifiers play-off


1. There are three qualifiers in Qatar 2022 to be replayed by 12 teams: 10 group second best plus the two highest ranked winners of Nations League groups who have not qualified otherwise. Scotland and Russia have qualified as second place.

Several teams are guaranteed at least one play-off place (including Poland, which only has a theoretical chance of capturing England). Either Wales or the Czech Republic will be number two in Group E, but whoever is not will get a place via the Nations League route. Austria is guaranteed a place via the Nations League route.

2. The six second places in the group with the best records, excluding matches against the bottom team in six-team groups, will be seeded. Scotland is outside the seeded spots, so there is a lack of a result against Denmark. Wales, who have to play a draw with Belgium to be sure of finishing second, would probably be seeded if they were to win.

3. The seeded teams play at home in the semifinals of the one-time playoffs on 24-25. March. The draw on 26 November will decide which semi-finals will give the home team in the one-time finals, 28-29. March.

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Andrej Kramaric headed straight at Safonov in the ninth minute before Marcelo Brozovic unleashed two long-range attacks, one sailed inches wide and the other made an acrobatic save from the visiting goalkeeper.

Safonov held off a nearby header from Mario Pasalic with an excellent stop in the 47th minute, and the Russians seemed to be at home and dry before regretting Kudryashov’s mistake.

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

Russia missed their only chance to save the match from their first floating move in the break, with Vyacheslav Karavaev shooting over the crossbar from 18 yards out.

Ondrej Duda scored a hat trick Slovakiawins 6-0 Malta, who had Teddy Teuma and Ryan Camenzuli sent off in the six minutes after the break.

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