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Croatia vs Czechia: The Road to playoffs for the World Cup!

From 6th to 10th November we will know the last two European nations which will participate at the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021 in Lithuania.

In yesterday's text we analyzed the qualifying road of Serbia and Finland (who play on 6th November in Kragujevac and 10th November in Vantaa), and today you can read about the qualifying road of the second playoff pair - Croatia and the Czech Republic (7th November in Zadar and 10th November in Brno).

THE CZECH REPUBLIC – the most experienced team wants to get back on a big stage

The Czech Republic is the most experienced team in these playoffs according to the World Cup participations (three times) and overall success (two European bronze medals). However, they failed to qualify for World Cup 2016 and Euro 2018, so they are aiming for a first major competition since Euro 2016 in Serbia.

They started their road to Lithuania with two convincing wins, against Germany (3:0) and Latvia (7:1). The last match against the tournament's host Portugal was played for the prestige (and the first place). The match was equal (1:1) until the 19th minute when Ricardinho scored his first out of two goals. Portugal eventually won 4:1.

In the Elite round Czechia hosted very even group with Kazakhstan, Romania and Slovenia. Much easier than expected, they defeated Slovenia (3:1) in the first round and Romania in the second with 4:0 (Romania defeated Kazakhstan in the first round with 3:1 – another conformation of how equal the group was).

Despite two convincing wins and goal-difference of 7:1, the Czech could still drop out of the competition. With a convincing defeat by Kazakhstan and a convincing victory for Romania against Slovenia, the Czechs could have fallen out!

However, despite losing 1:4 against Romania three minutes before the end, Slovenia scored three goals in the last three minutes and pulled out a draw.

Therefore, in the last match, the Czechia needed a draw to directly qualify for the World Cup. On the other side, Kazakhstan needed a win (with a draw, Kazakhstan wouldn't even qualify for the playoffs). With that on a stake, Kazakhstan entered the game extraordinary! With two goals of Douglas Júnior and one of Taynan, they led 3:0 before the beginning of the 5th minute!

In 23rd Douglas Júnior scored for the hat-trick and 4:0 lead. Even though we are talking about futsal, Kazakhstan is a too strong team to drop such an advantage. The end result was 5:2 for the guests who qualified directly for the World Cup and Czechia must look their chance in two playoff games against Croatia.

The Czech Republic in the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup Qualifiers:

Games: 6
Won: 4
Draw: 0
Lost: 2
Goals scored: 20
Goals conceded: 11
Best scorers: Holý, Seidler (5), Koudelka (3), Rešetár, Vnuk (2)
Number of players scored: 8
Biggest win: 7-1 (Latvia)
Biggest defeat: 1-4 (Portugal)

CROATIA – the talented generation wants to realize its full potential

Croatia is currently 10th futsal nation in the world according to ELO ranking. Therefore, Croats are the best-ranked team in this playoffs (Serbia is 14th, the Czech Republic 15th and Finland 20th). However, Croatia qualified for only one World Cup, 20 years ago in Guatemala. Nonetheless, Croats also missed the last Euro 2018, and it would be a great dispute if this talented generation misses another major competition.

Besides talented individuals (Tihomir Novak, Dario Marinović, Franko Jelovčić, etc.), Croatia played quite well in previous qualifying rounds. In the main group, as the hosts in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik, Croatia defeated neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina in the opening match with 4:0. In the second round, they defeated Sweden (3:1) which is led by two Croats – the head coach Matija Đulvat and his assistant Alen Jukić (they are both members of Croatian club Futsal Dinamo).

The last match was played for prestige since Russia also won first two matches and secured the next round. Russia scored two goals in the middle of the first half (Davydov and Asadov), and Jelovčić reduced the advantage minute before the break. In the second half, Croatia played quite well and succeded to equalize minute before the end. Even though both teams had 7 points and the same (+6) goal difference, Russia ended on the top of the table since they scored more goals.

In the Elite round, Croatia met with Russia again and the tournament was played in Croatia… again. The only difference was that the tournament was moved from the far south of the country (Dubrovnik) to the far east (Osijek). The first game against a strong team of Azerbaijan was crucial for Stanković's squad. In a tight match, Croatia won 2:0 after Perić and Jelovčić scored.

In the second match, Croatia was a big favourite against Slovakia. However, Slovaks surprised Croatia with great play and in 33rd minute Kozar scored for 2:2. Eventually, Novak scored from a penalty in 39th and secured Croats a great win.

Azerbaijan has complicated the situation in the group by winning against Russia (4:3). Before the last round Russia, Croatia and Azerbaijan could directly qualify for the World Cup, for the playoffs or completely drop out of the competition.

However, in the earlier game of the last day, Azerbaijan drew against Slovakia (4:4). Therefore, Russia and Croatia played for a direct place in Lithuania. Russia needed a draw for the first place, and Croatia needed a win.

Eder Lima scored first for Russia, Croatia equalized in 16th minute with Bajrušović's goal. Minute later, Russia scored two goals in 11 seconds (from 16:50 to 17:01) and gone to a two goals advantage.

In the second half, Croatia was a better team, Matošević scored in 33rd, but Romulo sealed Russia's placement in Lithuania with a goal 62 seconds before the end. In a powerplay, Matošević scored another goal for Croatia, but the winner was known.

Finland in the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup Qualifiers:

Games: 6
Won: 4
Draw: 1
Lost: 1
Goals scored: 17
Goals conceded: 9
Best scorers: Jelovčić (4), Novak, L. Suton (3), Kanjuh, Matošević (2)
Number of players scored: 8
Biggest win: 4-0 (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Biggest defeat: 3-4 (Russia)

Please, leave us your remarks in the comments. Which two nations will qualify for the World Cup? Croatia, Czechia, Finland or Serbia?