JUNE 3 2007 18:32h
Eduardo da Silva scored a goal in the 32nd minute and gave Croatia the important three points in a very difficult game.
Croatia had a harder time than expected chalking three points in Tallinn and the team were in great pains dealing with the fast Estonians. The match started with a minute of silence for the late former Estonia player. Even though many people expected our team to win the three points easily, our players had a hard time matching the pressure of the Estonians, whose aggressiveness prevented our players from developing their game. The player who made his debut in this game, Voskoboinikov, caused problems for our defense and for the unconfident Pletikosa, who did not react well to free kicks and Estonian passes. As Bilic announced, Estonians were most dangerous from free kicks. They managed to get as many as four corner shots in the first half. Croatia had an opportunity in the 27th minute. Srna sent a balloon toward the edge of the penalty area, the ball flew past da Silva to Petric, who immediately sent it past the bar from an 18 metres’ distance. Three minutes later, Petric tried again from 20 metres away and sent the ball in the same spot as in the first kick. It was all an overture for Eduardo’s goal in the 32nd minute.
Corluka, who was given advantage over Simic after all, sent the ball on the right side toward the centre, where Niko Kranjcar accidentally passed in to the middle with his heel, where da Silva, with his back to the goal, received the ball at 16 metres and then, as he turned, aimed at the right corner of Poom’s goal for the score 1:0.
This was the only period in the first half in which our players matched Estonians in terms of aggressiveness and developed their game in this way. By the end of the first half, Estonians threatened our goal again and, after a corner kick in the 40th minute, Piiroja hit the ball with his head, but Pletikosa saved it.
In the second half, our players realized after all that, when they calmed the ball, Estonians, who were left without strength, were no match for them. Our game started to take on shape. We threatened their goal through Srna from a free kick at the start of the second half and with Kranjcar running and kicking the ball from a 20 metres’ distance, but there were no concrete opportunities from elaborate campaigns. About 60 minutes into the game, there were several consecutive attacks. We threatened their goal from the right side, where Srna and Corluka caused Estonians to panic. The coach then decided to rest Petric and replace him with Olic. Later, Leko entered to replace Kranjcar.
When people expected Croatia to calmly bring the game to an end as Estonians were running out of energy, the Croatian players allowed the home team to stage a scare at the end nonetheless. After a corner shot, Klavan's head shot was headed under the crossbar and Pletikosa deflected the ball into a corner. After the corner kick, there was another danger in our penalty area because our goalkeeper only briefly deflected the ball. Still, the defense eliminated the danger. Seven minutes before the end, Vassiljev kicked the ball on the ground from an 18 metres’ distance to the very edge of our goal, but Pletikosa leapt and tossed it out. For the last three minutes and the three minutes of added time, there was real panic in the disjointed game and Estonians went for all or nothing. Our defense kicked the ball out in panic and, fortunately, none of the stray shots ended in our net and in the hearts of our fans who stood behind the goal and cheered the players on for the entire 90 minutes.
In the end, what matters is that the team chalked three points, that no one got injured, even if the players wasted their energy more than it was necessary. Our midfielders held on to the ball for too long and had problems with Estonians, who circled around them like bees and prevented all their plans to jeopardize their goal. Estonia also demonstrated aggressiveness on the legs of our players and committed as many as 22 fouls, compared to Croatia’s six.
ESTONIA - CROATIA 0:1
Scorer: Eduardo da Silva '32
Group E: Croatia 16, Israel 14, Russia 14, England 11, Macedonia 7, Estonia 0, Andorra 0