Fresh off a 2-0 win over Latvia, Croatia will be looking to seal their spot at Euro 2024 finals when they welcome Armenia to Stadion Maksimir in their last group game.
Croatia will entertain Armenia at the Stadion Maksimir in their final match of the UEFA Euro 2024 qualification campaign on Tuesday night.
A regular feature at the sharp end of major tournament finals, Croatia’s setbacks during the October international break have put their place at next summer’s European Championship finals in some jeopardy after defeats to Turkey and Wales left them third in the Group D standings.
Despite some unexpected roadblocks on their qualification route, they are now just one step away. The math is simple for World Cup finalists in 2018 and bronze medalists in Qatar last year: win here and go to Germany. They are two points ahead of Wales in Group D and need only match the result of the Dragons, who are up against group-toppers Turkey.
It is also noteworthy that the Croats have an inferior head-to-head record against Rob Page’s men. Even if they cannot make it to Germany via the direct route, they could still qualify by the back door thanks to their superb run to the Nations League final. Croatia have won four of their seven fixtures in Euro 2024 qualifying, having most recently won 2-0 away to Latvia on Saturday thanks to goals from Lovro Majer and Andrej Kramaric.
Armenia, meanwhile, have given another good account of themselves in these qualifiers. Their journey, however, will come to an end here, as they sit five points behind the top two and three points behind Wales in third place.
The Havakakan handed Wales a major blow over the weekend, holding the Dragons to a 1-1 draw at home. That result did end a three-match losing run for Armenia, although they are still winless in their last five. Croatia were run close by Armenia in the reverse fixture in Yerevan, digging deep to win 1-0, and could be given a good run for the money on Tuesday as well.
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Croatia could be without several key players for the clash with Armenia. Ivan Perisic remains sidelined by an ACL injury, while midfield mainstay Mateo Kovacic is doubtful due to a muscular problem. 29-year-old Dinamo Zagreb striker Bruno Petkovic and Torino attacker Nikola Vlasic are also on the list of injury absentees for Croatia.
Coach Zlatko Dalic chose Marko Pasalic as a replacement, marking his first call-up to the national team. The 23-year-old HNK Rijeka forward has been in fine form for his club this season and could even earn his first international start in attack here alongside in-form Andrej Kramaric and Luca Ivanusec.
Manchester City star Josko Gvardiol should continue at left-back, with Josip Stanisic featuring on the right flank. Josip Sutalo and Martin Erlic should form the central defensive partnership. And the back four will protect Dominik Livakovic, who remains the mainstay in between the sticks for the hosts.
The rest of the team is expected to remain the same. Captain Luka Modric will occupy his midfield role alongside Mateo Kovacic, with Lovro Majer assuming the left-sided attacking midfield role.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Livakovic; Stanisic, Sutalo, Erlic, Gvardiol; Modric, Brozovic, Majer; Pasalic, Kramaric, Ivanusec
Leaning heavily on a widespread Armenian diaspora, head coach Oleksandr Petrakov has again included players such as Argentina-born pair Lucas Zelarayan and Norberto Briasco, alongside Andre Calisir and midfielder Ugochukwu Iwu, originally from Nigeria.
The Armenia boss could be forced to make at least one change from the team that started the game against Wales, with skipper Varazdat Haroyan set to miss out on Tuesday after he picked up his third booking of the Euro 2024 qualification campaign last time out.
Due to the suspension of Astana’s centre-back, Taron Voskanyan may be called upon to fill in the visitors’ back five. Tigran Barseghyan is the Armenians’ leading active scorer with nine goals but will have to settle for a bench role yet again should Petrakov start Borussia Monchengladbach striker Grant-Leon Ranos in support of Zelarayan up front.
Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Cancarevic; Dashyan, Calisir, Voskanyan, Arutyunyan, Tiknizyan; Sevikyan, Iwu, Spertsyan; Ranos, Zelarayan
- These two teams have just met twice across all competitions so far, with one of the meetings being a friendly clash.
- Croatia have lost just once at home in European qualifiers, with that loss coming against Turkey last month.
- Armenia have just two wins in their last 11 games in European qualifiers, falling to six defeats.
- Armenia have scored in seven of their last nine matches.
- Three of Croatia’s last four games have been settled by a one-goal scoreline.
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As one of the architects of Croatia’s comfortable win against Latvia, Kramaric affirmed the value he brings to this team when he’s firing on all cylinders, bagging the second goal to settle any nerves.
With seven goals from his last appearances for club and country, the Hoffenheim striker is in red-hot scoring form. And Zlatko Dalic will trust him to fire Croatia off to a perfect start and cause all sorts of trouble for Armenia’s backline here.
Croatia 2-1 Armenia
While Croatia are assured a playoff spot, they will not want to leave anything to chance and will fancy getting the job done here with a favourable fixture. The Hard Tackle expect the hosts to dominate the proceedings from the first whistle and should also get over the line against Armenia at the Stadion Maksimir, although the visitors are much more resilient and dangerous than many realise and could give the hosts some kind of scare by scoring a goal.