Lovro Majer scored his first international goals for Croatia
Croatia will host Russia on Sunday in Group H’s final match to decide who qualifies automatically for the 2022 World Cup after both recorded big wins.
Luka Modric was among the goalscorers for 2018 finalists Croatia as they thrashed Malta 7-1 in Ta’ Qali.
Meanwhile, Russia hit five second-half goals as they beat visitors Cyprus 6-0.
Russia lead the group by two points, so a draw on Sunday would secure top spot and World Cup qualification, with the runners-up earning a play-off spot.
Aleksandr Erokhin scored in each half for Russia against Cyprus in St Petersburg, with Fedor Smolov, Andrey Mostovoy, Aleksei Sutormin and Anton Zabolotny also on target in the last 35 minutes.
The win ensures they go into Sunday’s game in Split with a slight advantage.
Ivan Perisic fired Croatia into a sixth-minute lead in Malta as he steered the ball into an empty net and Duje Caleta-Car doubled their advantage when he headed home Modric’s free-kick.
Marcelo Brozovic’s own goal pulled one back for the hosts, before Mario Pasalic and Modric made it 4-1 at half-time.
Croatia, nine points clear of third-placed Slovakia so guaranteed a play-off place whatever happens in the final game, did not ease up in the second half as Lovro Majer scored twice and Andrej Kramaric netted with a low finish.
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