DEBUTANT NATHAN BROADHEAD secured a superb point for Wales with a stunning injury-time equaliser.
Robert Page’s side seemed to start their post-Gareth Bale era with a first-half defeat to Croatia after Andrej Kramaric’s goal.
But supersub Broadhead tapped home at the far post after Chris Mepham flicked at Connor Roberts’ long throw.
It sparked wild celebrations among the 1,800 traveling Welsh supporters in Split.
That Group D opener was always a daunting task for the Dragons, with or without Bale retiring in January, and it proved that for long stretches as Luka Modric and company showed their class.
But Wales, led by new captain Aaron Ramsey, refused to give up and scored a late equalizer with just 40 seconds left.
Boss Page said before the game he wanted to see at least one performance after a disappointing group stage elimination in Qatar – and although it was difficult, he did get a result.
And while the Dragons are largely dominated, visitors returning from the Balkans will also regret Dan James’ other half Sitter.
The point gives Wales high hopes of reaching a third straight Euro finals and fourth major tournament in their last five attempts.
This has been billed as a new post-Bale era, but Wales started with eight teams who lost 3-0 to England which sent them out of the World Cup.
Wales lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with new skipper Ramsey licensed to back up lone striker Kieffer Moore.
Croatia, seventh in the world, had never lost a home qualifier and their only defeat in their last 14 games came at the World Cup, where they were beaten by Lionel Messi’s eventual winners Argentina.
The hosts nailed it from the start.
Page, who was furious with Nottingham Forest for treating Brennan Johnson’s groin injury in a way that left him unavailable for international duty, was also disappointed that Luka Modric had not called a day after Qatar.
And Real Madrid playmaker Modric, 37, playing his 163rd cap, forced Danny Ward to turn a sizzling 25-yard shot around his post in the third minute.
That came from Connor Roberts, who conceded possession, and the Burnley full-back found himself in trouble moments later.
Roberts was second best in a tackle with Ivan Perisic and the Tottenham star saw his dangerous cross dodge Marko Livaja and found Joe Rodon, but luckily the ball flew wide for a corner.
Wales failed to keep the ball which allowed Croatia to apply early pressure.
Keeper Ward, replaced by Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers for Daniel Iversen last weekend, showed subtle flexion to save Hoffenheim’s Kramaric after a stylish touch from Mateo Kovacic.
Ethan Ampadu was booked for withdrawing Modric and Perisic thought he put Croatia ahead with the resulting free-kick.
But Portuguese referee Joao Pinheiro ruled that Livaja fouled Roberts in build-up before Perisic’s shot was deflected off Chris Mepham.
Wales had ignored the warning and Page’s men were gently falling behind after 28 minutes.
Rodon lost a dogfight with Livaja and then Kramaric prevailed over a weak challenge from Neco Williams.
As the attack developed Mepham let off and that opened the space for former Leicester striker Kramaric to fire home from the edge of the area.
It had come.
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Modric, in superb form, volleyed wide after a Perisic knockdown before Sosa fired in tamely.
Wales had been dominated and the 1,800 fans who had traveled had to wait until three minutes before half-time for a first shot on goal.
Josko Gvardiol fouled Harry Wilson and the Fulham winger saw his dive fly over the bar in typical Bale territory.
Kramaric fired wildly over the bar after Williams gave up the ball.
In truth, Croatia, with 70 per cent possession and nine shots at Wales, would have been frustrated if they had managed just one goal on returning to the dressing rooms at the break.
Chelsea midfield ace Kovacic missed a golden opportunity to put the hosts two goals clear when he shot over from close range after a skillful one-two with Kramaric.
Despite all the Croatian dominance, Wales could have equalized up to the hour.
Wilson got the better of Gvardiol, Ramsey recycled and Wilson’s diagonal pass found James uncovered but the winger missed a volley on goal.
Just when Wales were finally looking to pose a threat, Page surprisingly made a treble, withdrawing Ramsey, Wilson and James for Sorba Thomas, Wes Burns and Broadhead from Ipswich.
But after Perisic hit the bar with a volley, Broadhead trumped and scored an unlikely draw.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/7719311/croatia-wales-euro-2024-match-report/ Croatia 1 Wales 1: Debutant Nathan Broadhead thrills Welsh fans with final equalizer against Modric and company