Soccer-Croatia lose ground after 2-2 draw with Slovakia


Soccer Football - World Cup - UEFA Qualifiers - Group H - Croatia v Slovakia - Stadion Gradski vrt, Osijek, Croatia - October 11, 2021 Croatia's Luka Modric scores their second goal from a free kick REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

OSIJEK, Croatia (Reuters) - Croatia dented their hopes of qualifying automatically for the 2022 World Cup after a 2-2 home draw with Slovakia in their Group H clash on Monday left them trailing Russia by two points in a two-team race for the top spot.

The Russians, who have 19 points from eight games, beat Slovenia 2-1 away to leapfrog Croatia, who came from behind twice against the Slovakians and had a late goal scrapped after a VAR check.

Both Russia and 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia are assured of at least a play-off berth as third-placed Slovakia are on 10 points and have no chance of breaking into the top two.

Winger Ivan Schranz headed the Slovakians into a 20th-minute lead before Andrej Kramaric glanced in the equaliser five minutes later and the visitors struck again on the stroke of halftime through Lukas Haraslin.

Croatia captain Luka Modric levelled with a 71st-minute free kick before substitute Nikola Vlasic was denied a winner in the 83rd as his close-range effort was ruled out for an infringement.

Croatia next visit Malta while Slovakia host Slovenia and Russia host Cyprus on Nov.11.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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