Croatia vs Ukraine Prediction, Preview, H2H, Lineups & Betting Tips 24.03.2017
Croatia takes on Ukraine at the “Stadion Maksimir” in capital Zagreb where both sides will meet in a first-place decider on Friday night, 24 March 2017. After opening four rounds in Group I of the 2018 FIFA World Cup European Qualifiers we find Croatia and Ukraine on top of the standings. Croatia are topping Group I while Ukraine breathes down their neck, but most important is that both sides have not lost a single game yet.
H2H – Croatia vs Ukraine: Croatia and Ukraine share a really solid head-to-head history for two countries which have been established as independent states in the early 90’s. Their first direct duel in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifications will be match number eight facing Croatia against Ukraine and seventh competitive encounter, which might be followed by an even more decisive clash on 9 October 2017. That’s the day when last round (10) from the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying group phase will take place and we won’t be surprised if both nations are deeply involved in a fierce contention to claim one from the UEFA visas to Russia.
An upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifying fixture in Zagreb this Friday will be first one between Croatia and Ukraine since June 2009. It was once again staged at the “Maksimir” in Zagreb where after a goalless draw in Kharkiv from October 2008, Croatia could not won and that 2-2 draw cost them much. Back then Croatia and Ukraine were alongside England, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra in Group F of the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, where Ukraine finished second behind England, on a point above Croatia.
Nevertheless, the Croats have a positive record against Ukraine which consists of three victories, three draws (in the last three matches) and only one defeat. The only win of Ukraine is from June 1995 when they won 1-0 in Kiev and game was part of the UEFA Euro 1996 qualifiers.
In the meantime last success of Croatia was on 29 October 1997 when “Vatreni” won 2-0 over Ukraine in Zagreb. That was first leg of the 1998 FIFA World Cup playoffs where only two weeks later Croatia eliminated Ukraine after a draw (1-1) in Kyiv and 3-1 on aggregate. Goalscorer for the Ukrainians was their current coach Andriy Shevchenko
World Cup 2018 Qualification: Croatia vs Ukraine 24.03.2017
Two decades after the 1998 FIFA World Cup playoffs, current distance between Croatia and Ukraine is pretty thin – only two points. Croatia occupies the first position with 10 points after three wins and a surprising home draw against Turkey, while Ukraine looks for a breakthrough with 8 points (two wins, two draws). We can easily note their direct meetings may be significant and kind of a “playoff” for the first position in qualifying Group I. Of course, we should not underestimate presence of the mighty vikings from Iceland and usual suspects from Turkey, who all form a really balanced quartet with pretenders for the top two positions. Furthermore, teams like Finland and Kosovo are the “underdogs” in that group, so every dropped point can be from a huge importance for the final positioning.
Match Preview: Team News, Squads and Missing Players
Croatia began its 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a frustrating home draw against Turkey, despite an absolute domination of the Croats early in September. However, the Turks have stolen a point and that was their partial revenge for a lost group opener at the UEFA Euro 2016 finals in France only three months earlier.
After a false start against Turkey, coach Ante Cacic obviously found the right rhythm and Croatia won next three qualifying matches. A streak that includes three clean sheets and nine goals scored as follows: 0-6 vs Kosovo, 0-1 vs Finland (both games were away), 2-0 vs Iceland. Even if not the most resultative, victory over Iceland is surely Croatia’s most meaningful result so far in the qualifying. It came over another team with certain aspirations to earn one of the 32 spots for Russia, as Iceland were one of the quarter-finalists at the UEFA Euro 2016 finals few months earlier. Although Croatia had to serve another suspension and host a game without any spectators, “Vatreni” won with two goals of right-winger Marcelo Brozovic, but bad news came from the other flank. Ivan Perisic has been sent-off with a straight red card in closing minutes of the game and he’ll miss out game against Ukraine.
Months after beating Iceland and reaching another strong result in a friendly match vs Northern Ireland (0-3 in Belfast), Croatia will finally host a World Cup qualifier without a suspension. Moreover, stadium is already sold-out and around 30, 000 spectators will support Croatia in a real first-place decider.
Ante Cacic is one of the European national team coaches who can choose among a great national pool with many talented players. That’s something truly remarkable since Croatia is a country with population around 5 million inhabitants. Even without Ivan Perisic, Cacic can still pick a replacement between prospects like Marko Rog, Marko Pjaca and even Mario Mandzukic, who attacks through the left wing very often in his club team Juventus this season.
Meanwhile, biggest issues of Croatia are at the back where former captain Darijo Srna is not available as he retired from international football after the UEFA Euro 2016 finals. Atletico Madrid’s defender Sime Vrsaljko was his replacement at the right-back but he will miss out due injury, so Tin Jedvaj is one of the options to cover right flank of Croatia’s defense. Experienced central defender Vedran Corluka is also injured and his absence reduces defensive limits Ante Cacic has. Under these circumstances winter signing of Turkish champion Besiktas – Matej Mitrovic, is the one who can start next to Domagoj Vida in heart of Croatia’s defense.
Defender of Liverpool Dejan Lovren and Napoli’s left-back Ivan Strinic have not been drafted for international duty.
Ukraine head to the Western Balkans where Andriy Shevchenko’s selection will be keen to achieve third successive victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying. But let us be realistic, even a draw would be a suitable result to the Ukrainians.
“The Yellow-Blues” started with two draws against Iceland (1-1 in Kyiv) and Turkey (2-2 in Konya), but they can surely regret about a missed opportunity in both occasions. In first match at the “Olimpiyskiy Stadium” in Kyiv (without spectators) Ukraine missed a fine chance to win vs Iceland when Yevhen Konoplyanka missed a penalty in closing part of the game.
A month later Ukraine took a comfortable 0-2 lead in Turkey but even that was not enough and Andriy Shevchenko could not won his managerial duel against Fatih Terim.
Next two qualifiers of Ukraine have been marked with the maximum amount of points won as first one of them was a 3-0 win vs Kosovo, followed by a narrow success vs Finland in November. Match against Kosovo took place in Poland, while victory over Finland was on the Black Sea coast – in Odessa. Few days after winning against Finland, Ukraine played their last match in 2016 and won 2-0 vs Serbia in Kharkiv. A good way to close the year after the very disappointing performance in France, where Ukrainians not only failed to win a point, but could not score a single goal as well.
First match of the Ukraine national football team will be at one of the most inhospitable places and against biggest Group I favourites. Andriy Shevchenko surely looks forward to benefit from all the absentees in Croatia’s defensive line as being a predator in the box, so he knows how to improve the morale of his attackers. Granda’s striker Artem Kravets, who scored in each of last three qualifying matches, is expected to lead Ukraine’s attack again as he will be supported by Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka through both wings. That is a trio that has to represent biggest threat to Croatian defense.
Croatia vs Ukraine Betting Prediction
The Croats have been determined by the bookies as clear favourites for winning the Group I’s first-place decider on Friday night, but with all these misses at the back we are not tempted by betting odds on the home side. Not at all. These players will need time to build a line and visitors from Ukraine can give their ultimate effort to pull out something out of that.
Biggest advantage of Croatia is surely related with all the options Ante Cacic has in midfield, with names like Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic, Milan Badelj and Marcelo Brozovic.
Our betting prediction is influenced by the great odds we have on “Both teams to score – Yes“ and with all relevant strengths of both sides. We expect at least a goal scored by either Croatia and Ukraine on Friday night.
Venue: “Stadion Maksimir”, Zagreb.
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz from Spain.
Possible Lineups of Croatia and Ukraine
Croatia: Danijel Subasic – Josip Pivaric, Domagoj Vida, Matej Mitrovic, Tin Jedvaj – Milan Badelj, Luka Modric – Marko Pjaca, Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic – Mario Mandzukic. (4-2-3-1)
Ukraine: Andriy Pyatov – Artem Fedetsky, Yaroslav Rakitsky, Oleksandr Kucher, Bogdan Butko – Taras Stepanenko, Sergiy Sydorchuk – Andriy Yarmolenko, Viktor Kovalenko, Yevhen Konoplyanka – Artem Kravets. (4-2-3-1)