Ahead of Saturday’s friendly with Norway, Slaven Bilić believed he would get the answers as to where his Croatia team are a week before they kick off their Euro 2012 campaign against Ireland.
Instead, he will be left with more questions after Tarik Elyounoussi’s 92nd-minute header rescued a draw for Norway and compounded an underwhelming performance from the Vatreni.
Former Arsenal striker Eduardo had broken the deadlock 11 minutes from time, but it will have done little to appease Bilić, whose preparations were disrupted by an illness to Luka Modrić and s back injury to Vedran Ćorluka, while experienced striker Ivica Olić also pulled up in the 71st minute.
To make it all the more galling for Bilić, it was a strong Croatia side that started in Oslo and their flat performance should have been punished by Norway.
After Daniel Braaten squandered a good early opportunity, Markus Henriksen should have given the home side the lead.
A flowing left-wing move cut through Croatia’s backline, resulting in Erik Huseklepp squaring for the onrushing Henriksen in the six-yard box, but he was remarkably denied by the reflexes of Stipe Pletikosa.
Croatia’s best opening of the half saw Mario Mandžukić force a save from Rune Almenning Jarstein with a speculative half-volley.
Things failed to improve much at the start of the second period either; Danijel Pranjić’s awful backpass presented Huseklepp with a free run on goal, but he fluffed his chance when one-on-one with Pletikosa.
Then with just over ten minutes remaining, Croatia improbably took the lead.
Captain Darijo Srna broke down the right before swinging over an inviting cross that was met with a diving header from the stooping Eduardo – an excellent finish from the Brazilian-born poacher for his 23rd international goal.
The final ten minutes saw Norway pile on the pressure, but with stoppage time approaching, a Croatian victory looked in sight – until Elyounoussi popped up with a close-range header from a corner.
It was a dreadful goal to concede, a free header from only a yard out with non-existent marking from what was virtually Croatia’s first-choice defence on the field.
Croatia are currently 21/20 for victory over the Republic of Ireland in bwin’s 3way market, but after this performance there may be few takers.
Still, any new customers unperturbed could collect £51.25 for a Croatia win if they use their free £25 bet for registering with bwin.
Norway: Jarstein (Bugge Pettersen 45); Ruud, Demidov (Madsen 45), Hangeland, Riise; Henriksen (Grindheim 71), Yttergård Jenssen, Huseklepp (Søderlund 84), Tettey (Berisha 73), Elyounoussi; Braaten.
Croatia: Pletikosa; Vida, Schildenfeld, Šimunić, Strinić (Pranjić 45); Dujmović (Vukojević 45), Rakitić, Srna, Perišić (Kranjčar 63); Mandžukić (Eduardo 63), Jelavić (Olić 45, Iličević 71).
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