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.
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.