October 6, 2017 / 9:10 PM / a year ago

Soccer-Croatia lose qualification top spot after 1-1 draw with Finland

RIJEKA, CROATIA Oct 6 (Reuters) - Croatia’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup were dented after conceding a 90th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Finland in Group I on Friday.

The result left the Croatians second on 17 points, two behind leaders Iceland who moved above them with a 3-0 win in Turkey.

Third-placed Ukraine also have 17 points but an inferior goal difference after a 2-0 win at bottom team Kosovo. Their clash with Croatia in Kiev on Monday is likely to decide who clinches the runners-up spot.

Both teams can still win the group only in the unlikely event that Iceland, aiming for their second successive major tournament after reaching the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, slip up at home against Kosovo.

Late substitute Pyry Soiri celebrated his international debut for Finland with a fine finish which silenced the home crowd, who then jeered the Croatian players off the pitch after a tepid performance.

The 23-year-old’s volley from eight metres cancelled out Mario Mandzukic’s 57th-minute opener after the home side missed a string of chances in the first half.

The best opportunity fell to Croatian centre back Domagoj Vida whose header was cleared off the line by Rasmus Schueller, after left back Josip Pivaric and winger Ivan Perisic also came close.

Captain Luka Modric, making his 100th international appearance, fired inches over the bar from 20 metres in the second half before the Finns threatened with Juhani Ojala’s header forcing an acrobatic save from goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.

Mandzukic scrambled the ball in from point blank range soon afterwards, with Pivaric’s cross diverted into his path by Finnish defender Niklas Moisander.

The Croatians sat back in the closing stages and having seen Joel Pohjanpalo’s fizzing low shot blocked by Vida, they were stunned at the death by Soiri who took advantage of static defending and blasted his volley past Subasic. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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