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Croatia Are In Meltdown At Just The Right Time For Ireland

Croatia Are In Meltdown At Just The Right Time For Ireland
By Gavin Cooney
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Across this weekend, we may see a couple of new entries into the Gary Mackay Hall of Fame.

Martin Skrtel put his hand up for inclusion on Thursday night with a last-gasp own goal against Scotland to give Ireland the first set of results we need to gain control of our own destiny, but last night Skrtel was given an unlikely rival nominee. Step forward Finland's Pyry Soiri who, on his international debut, struck a last-minute equaliser away to Croatia.

This, coupled with Ukraine's 2-0 win away to Kosovo and Iceland's 3-0 shellacking of the Turks, means that a draw between Ukraine and Croatia on Monday night in Kiev would guarantee Ireland a playoff spot (on the agreement that we go and beat Wales).


After the collective neurosis of Euro 2012, no Irish fan will underrate to Croats ever again, so to expect them to drop points is perhaps slightly fanciful. But encouragingly for Ireland, they are currently in complete meltdown.

They've sacked manager Ante Cacic today, just two days before the critical trip to Kiev. Cacic gave a hopelessly incomprehensible interview after the game, reeling in front of the camera as he inexplicably referred to Finland as Iceland throughout.

Luka Modric, however, spoke with far more clarity, which proved unfortunate for Cacic. The Madrid midfielder called the situation "catastrophic", and then took aim at the side's mentality and tactics:

What happened? Nothing, we have only just compromised our path to the World Cup.

When we were looking for the goal, we had a few chances and initiative. When we scored, it was unbelievable that we would retreat against Finland, of all teams.

That Croatia was waiting for the final whistle against that kind of national team is…It is unbelievable that we are struggling against teams like Kosovo and Finland, where before we would have beaten them with ease.

Last night's draw means that Croatia have endured an Ireland-esque falter: after a flying start, they have picked up just four points in their last four games. Davor Suker, the head of the Croatian FA, confirmed that Cacic has now been fired and Zlatko Dalic has been installed as coach for Monday's game.



See Also: Martin O'Neill Must Face An Awkward Truth - Shane Long Is Not Justifying His Place

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