Croatia started slowly and Macedonia capitalised by taking the lead in the 16th minute through Ibrahimi, when he slotted past Croatian keeper Stipe Pletikosa after being put through by Goran Pandev. The goal brought Croatia to life and in the 33rd minute defender Vedran Corluka was left unmarked in the box from a Rakitic corner. The Lokomotiv Moscow player calmly brought the ball down and banged it past Macedonian keeper Martin Bogatinov to equalise.
Croatia’s winning goal came in the 61st minute when Bogatinov misjudged a 40-metre free kick from Rakitic. Bogatinov was left stranded on the penalty spot as the ball floated over his out stretched hand. The match also marked the debut for Croatia’s naturalised Brazilian Sammir, when he replaced Nikica Jelavic in the 65th minute. Croatia now face Wales at home in Osijek on Tuesday.
“I am very happy. everything went to plan. We didn’t count on an early goal but I was pleased how we kept calm and patient,” said a satisfied coach Igor Stimac.