Croatia has done half the job needed in their final two qualifiers to earn direct qualification to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar when they comfortably beat Malta on Thursday night.
Croatia’s 7-1 victory at the Ta’ Qali National Stadium in Malta means that a win over Russia on Sunday in Split will see them win group H and guarantee them a place in Qatar.
Zlatko Dalić decided to give goalkeeper Ivo Grbić his debut, whilst Rennes midfielder Lovro Majer, a late call-up to the squad, started in the midfield.
Croatia only need six minutes to open the scoring after a defensive error allowed Luka Modrić to find Andrej Kramarić tin the box and he unselfishly squared it to Ivan Perišić who scored his 32nd goal for his country to go one behind Mario Mandžukić.
Malta would be next to find the back of the net but Degabriele’s goal would be ruled out by VAR after he was caught offside.
Duje Ćaleta-Car would double the lead in the 22nd minute when he rose tallest to head home a Modrić free-kick.
Malta pulled one back 9 minutes later when Brozović steered a clearance into his own net. Croatia, who dominated possession throughout the first half, restored their two-goal advantage in the 39th minute.
Majer found Kramarić in loads of space and he would beat his defender before again unselfishly squaring the ball back across the face of the goal for Mario Pašalić to tap home.
Captain Modrić would then make it 4-1 on the stroke of halftime when he beat the Malta keeper from close range.
Croatia only needed a minute in the second half to extend their lead further and it would be Majer with his first goal for his country at senior level when he stabbed in a rebound after Kramarić’s header was saved. Kramarić finally got one for himself in the 54th minute when he capitalised on another defensive error to fire in to an open net from 25 yards out.
Majer would get his second and Croatia’s 7th in the 63rd minute when he finished off a nice move from inside the box.
You can watch the goals HERE
With Sunday on his mind, Dalić made a number of changes, taking off Perišić, Brozović, Modrić and Kramarić in the second half.
Croatia now has 20 points, two behind Russia who have 22 points. Croatia and Russia meet in the final group match at Poljud stadium on Sunday, 14 November at 3 p.m.