Croatia edged past Russia 1-0 to book an automatic berth for next year’s World Cup finals in a dramatic fashion.
A late own goal by Fedor Kudryashov gifted the previous edition’s runners up a 1-0 home win over Russia in their crunch Group D qualifier on Sunday.
The Croats leapfrogged Russia to finish the group on 23 points from 10 games, one more than the second-placed Russians who will head into the March playoffs.
Croatia who started the match behind Russia dominated the rain-hit match as a string of good saves by Russian keeper Matvei Safonov denied them a host of chances before Kudryashov’s clumsy 80th-minute touch broke the Russian hearts.
Needing a draw to qualify, the Russians defended with everyone behind the ball and soaked up intense pressure as the Croatians besieged their goal but failed to create clear-cut chances.