Croatia beat Russia 1-0 and reached the finals of the World Cup

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Croatia grabbed an automatic spot in next year’s World Cup finals dramatically when an own goal from Fedor Kudryashov delivered a 1-0 home win against Russia in their crucial Sunday Group D qualifier.

Croatia, runner-up at the 2018 World Cup, overtook Russia and topped the table with 23 points in 10 games, one more than second-placed Russia, who will head for the March playoffs.

Croatia dominated a game played in pouring rain, but a series of good saves from visiting goalkeeper Matvei Safonov and a flooded pitch kept them at bay before Kudryashov’s clumsy touch in the 80th minute delighted the home fans.

Needing a draw to qualify, the Russians defended with everyone behind the ball and absorbed intense pressure as the Croats besieged their goal but failed to create clear chances.

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In the 9th minute, Andrei Kramaric heads Safonov before Marcelo Brozovic makes two long-range shots, one a couple of centimeters wide and the other acrobatically parrying the visiting goalkeeper.

Safonov dismissed a close-range header from Mario Pasalic with a superb stop in the 47th minute and the Russians appeared to be at home and dry before being defeated by Kudryashov’s mistake.

With waves of Croatian attacks losing momentum on a difficult pitch, left-back Borna Sosa launched a hopeful cross from the left and Kudryashov slipped the ball into his own net after it bounced awkwardly in front of him.

Russia lost their only chance to save the game from their first smooth move in recovery, Vyacheslav Karavaev firing over the crossbar from 18 meters.

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