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Cymru’s late equaliser secures draw

On March 27, 2023, Nathan Broadhead scored a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer to earn Wales a 1-1 draw against Croatia in their opening match of the Euro 2024 qualifiers. The result was particularly impressive considering Wales were without their talismanic striker Gareth Bale, who had retired from international football after scoring 41 goals and winning 111 caps for his country.

Croatia started the match on the front foot and took the lead in the 28th minute through Andrej Kramaric’s well-taken strike, which left Welsh goalkeeper Danny Ward with no chance. Wales struggled to get into the game, with Croatia dominatig possession and creating numerous chances to extend their lead. Mateo Kovacic missed a golden opportunity to double Croatia’s advantage, while Ivan Perisic struck the crossbar with a deflected shot.

Wales boss Rob Page had to contend with a number of injury concerns ahead of the match, with Brennan Johnson and Ben Davies both missing due to groin and hamstring injuries, respectively. The Welsh attack also lacked cohesion, with Dan James, Harry Wilson, and Kieffer Moore, their starting front three, having played just 610 minutes of football between them in the Premier League this season.

Despite their struggles, Wales fought back in the second half and started to create chances of their own. However, it wasn’t until the 92nd minute that they finally made the breakthrough. Ipswich Town’s Nathan Broadhead, making his international debut, came off the bench to score with his first touch, prodding home at the back post following a long throw from Connor Roberts.

The late equalizer was a huge moment for Wales, who had been forced to soak up a lot of pressure from a dominant Croatian side. The draw will give them confidence ahead of their next qualifier against Latvia on Tuesday, March 28. Page admitted after the match that the point was all-important: “We had a target for the points we wanted to get, it’s all about the home game for us. That was the winnable game, and we always knew that on the hour we were going to make those substitutions. It’s beneficial to keep them fresh now for Tuesday, but when you get the equalizer like we did late on in the game it feels like a win.”

Former Wales striker Rob Earnshaw praised the Welsh team for their resilience and character: “It’s an absolute smash and grab, an unbelievable result for Wales. It’s huge for Wales, because it shows they can compete with a team like Croatia, and it’s huge for the group of players. It shows that you never give up. Really, Croatia should have won the game comfortably, but it’s something to build on for Wales, and I think we’ll see down the line just how big this is for them.”

Stats highlighted the fact that Wales had scored with their only shot on target in the match and that five of their last seven goals in all competitions had come in the final 10 minutes of games. Nathan Broadhead’s late equalizer also made him the first player to score on his international debut for Wales since Ben Woodburn against Austria in September 2017.

Overall, it was a gritty and determined performance from Wales, who showed that they can still compete at the highest level despite the retirement of several key players. It will be up to the likes of Broadhead and the rest of the Welsh team to step up and fill the void left by their former captain.