Croatia 1 Wales 1

Thursday, 22 August 2002, 0:00
3 mins read

Home > Story Index >89th Seeding In Question – Wales 1 Croatia 1

Duringa ninety minute downpour inVarazin Wales held on for a credible draw in front of a meagre crowd as Mark Hughes and his squad warmed up for their European campaign which starts in Finland in three weeks time.
The icing on the cake for Hughes will be the solo goal scored bySpurs midfielder Simon Davies in the eleventh minute of a game which saw Croatia make ten changes, and Wales begin the game without nine probableinclusions when the European qualifiers start next month. Not surprisingly Wales were without Ryan Giggs, but also missed Newcastle United’s Craig Bellamy due to be back from injury in two weeks time for his club side. Also missing were Gary Speed,Jason Koumas and Swansea City star striker James Thomas – all ruled out with injuries.
However, the side selected by Hughes defended well in a competitive first half which sadly petered out in the second half due to personnel changes on the pitch. Cheered on by 150 travelling supporters Davies set the game alight with a tremendous run beating four Croatian players before coolly slotting the ball under the advancing keeper. Huges described the goal as " Truely memorable and one which will beplayed over and over again " From there on in the referee’s whistle tended to dominate the half as first Celtic’s John Hartson then Aston Villa’s Mark Delaney were both booked. Hartson got little change out of the referee in opposition to Stanic who time and time again frustrated Hartson in aerial challenges. Finally Hartson’s patience ran out and he was booked for persistent foul language. Delaney’s tackle on Patrice was deemed heavy and he too saw yellow,however his reaction if this was not a friendly could have bought him more than just a caution.
Croatia offered little in the first half with the exception of a well struck free kick superbly saved by Wales Keeper Paul Jones currently out of favour at Southampton and rumoured to be unhappy at the possible arrival of Nigel Martyn from Leeds United at St Mary’s. It was Cardiff City’s Daniel Gabbidon who shone in the defence alongside Fulham’s Andrew Melville who between them kept the Croatian attack at bay time and time again. The hero from the victory over Germany, Rob Earnshaw, who just three seasons ago was on loan at Morton in Scotland failed to relive his big night at the national stadium, but when he did get possession the Croats seemed worried enough to put two men on him.
The second half was won by Croatia due to their far superior possession of the ball but the Wales defence seemed to be holding out for a well earned victory when disaster struck. A harmless back pass from Earnshaw to Jones in the 79th minute seemed to be an easy clearance but the Saints keeper hammered the ball against an advancing Croatian and the rebound was coolly slotted in to an empty net by Mladen Petric. The whole Welsh side held their heads in their hands as the equaliser hit the back of the net.
A credible draw maybe, but the victory would have tasted far better against a country who have come on in leaps and bounds on the world football stage in the past ten years, but Hughes was philosophical. " I am not blaming Paul for the goal, that’s not my way, he played well and kept us in the game at times. For me the effort from the Nationwide league players was the benefit for me, they all played extremely well, they wanted to be involved and to play well at this level and they certainly did that " Celtic’s John Hartson summed up the dressing room feeling after the game " It was a battle and the ref seemed to give them more than their fair share of decisions. We had to defend a lot and wanted the win, but even a draw is a great result " Hartson who time and time again turns out for Wales even in the midst of today’s transfer speculation to Sunderland was replaced by Burnley’s Gareth Taylor in the second half.
All in all this was yet another good result for the rejuvenated Wales set up and sets the national side up well for the European campaign ahead which see’s tough ties against Italy and Yugoslavia. And the only way that the current seeding of 89th in the world can be challenged is by qualifying for the 2004 championships. JackArmy.Net will be at all the games as the campaign progresses bringing you the news first from the crucial Welsh games.
JA.NET NEWSFLASH Roger Freestone is giving himself a 75 % chance of being available for Saturday’s game gainst Bournemouth at The Vetch Field ( KO 3PM ) He will train on Thursday with the rest of the Swansea City squad and Nick Cusack will be in a positon then to determine if Freestone can play or not. Saturday, if he playes will be his 500th Swansea City league game.

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