West Ham stars impress during World Cup qualifying clashes
- Credit: PA
West Ham United duo Nikola Vlašić and Arthur Masuaku both faced must-win games in Sunday’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers – and achieved precisely that.
Vlašić and Croatia went into Sunday evening’s final group game at home to Russia knowing nothing other than three points would secure automatic progress to the tournament - otherwise, their opponents would top Group H.
Hammers' Vlašić started the game at Stadion Poljud, helping the 2018 World Cup finalists dominate the possession and shot count from wide on the right, producing several good crosses.
In the 81st minute, a high ball into the box saw Russian defender Fyodor Kudryashov fail to sort out his feet, deflecting it beyond his own goalkeeper in an own goal to seal Croatia’s qualification for the 2022 finals.
A fortunate way to earn victory – but a deserved victory nevertheless for Croatia, who topped Group H by a single point as a result, with seven wins from ten games.
Also needing a victory was Masuaku and DR Congo, who subsequently secured a 2-0 win over Benin and leapfrogged their opponents at the top of Group J.
DR Congo now advance to the third and final round of African qualification for the 2022 World Cup, which sees the ten group winners from the second round compete in home-and-away ties to reach the finals.
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Elsewhere, Pablo Fornals was not named in Spain’s starting XI or substitutes for their 1-0 win over Sweden in Seville.
That result, courtesy of Alvaro Morata’s late strike, secured La Roja’s spot at the 2022 World Cup, where Fornals will hope to be involved.
Michail Antonio and Saïd Benrahma both netted their first international goals in Friday's FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Antonio scored a fine solo goal in Jamaica's 1-1 draw in El Salvador, while Benrahma helped Algeria to a comfortable 4-0 win in Djibouti.
The Hammers number nine's goal, scored eight minutes from time in San Salvador, looked set to give the Reggae Boyz a vital victory, only for the home side's Alexander Roldán to cancel it out in the final minute.
Algeria, meanwhile, now need only a point from their final qualifier against Burkina Faso on Monday to book their spot in the final round of qualifying in Africa.
Benrahma notched his team's second goal of four as they eased to victory over Group A's bottom side Djibouti.