Croatia beats Latvia to make Euro playoff

Croatia had to settle for a place in the playoffs for next

year’s European Championship despite beating Latvia 2-0 Tuesday in

their final qualifier thanks to goals from Eduardo da Silva and

Mario Mandzukic.

Croatia finished second in Group F behind Greece, which rallied

late for a 2-1 victory over Georgia. It had a chance to qualify as

best runner-up, but that spot went to Sweden after it beat the

Netherlands 3-2 in Group E.

Croatia dominated from the start but was held scoreless through

the first half, and Latvia nearly took the lead in the 59th when

Artjoms Rudnevs was one-on-one with Stipe Pletikosa after a long

solo run, but the Croatian goalkeeper made a great save.

Eduardo then put Croatia ahead in the 66th, taking a pass from

Ivan Strinic and scoring with a powerful header. Mandzukic secured

the win with another header in the 72nd after converting a perfect

pass from Darjo Srna.

”We were hoping to go directly to Euro 2012 but still feel we

will be there,” Srna said. ”It was a good game today, even though

it was not easy to kick back after the setback in Greece last

Friday,” when Croatia lost 2-0.

Lineups:

Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa, Ivan Strinic, Josip Simunic, Dejan

Lovren, Vedran Corluka (Domagoj Vida, 34), Ivan Rakitic, Luka

Modric, Darijo Srna, Mario Mandzukic (Nikica Jelavic, 84), Niko

Kranjcar (Ivan Perisic, 59), Eduardo da Silva.

Latvia: Andris Vanins, Oskars Klava, Pavels Mihadjuks, Deniss

Ivanovs, Olegs Laizans, Aleksandrs Cauna, Aleksejs Visnakovs

(Andrejs Rubins, 88), Ritvars Rugins (Igors Tarasovs, 81), Kaspars

Gorkss, Andrejs Pereplotkins (Erdgars Gauracs, 71), Artjoms

Rudnevs.