Wales will be aiming to continue their excellent start in Euro 2020 qualifying as they take on Croatia on Saturday afternoon.
Ryan Giggs’ men had the perfect start to their qualification campaign but now have a stern test in the form 0f the 2018 World Cup runners-up.
Heading to the Stadion Gradski vrt, Zlatko Dalic’s men are experiencing a slight patch of indifferent form. Following defeat to England in the final match of the UEFA Nations League group games, they have notched one win and loss apiece in qualification so far; they edged past Azerbaijan before falling to a shock 2-1 defeat to Hungary last time out. As a matter of fact, their results in recent times have been inconsistent since they reached the final of the World Cup in Russia. In eight games, they have only won three and have only managed to keep one clean sheet – a 0-0 draw against the Three Lions back in October 2018. Despite that, Croatia have been imperious on home soil having not lost on home soil since a 2-1 reverse to Belgium in 2013 which was their last defeat in a qualifier of any sort. That sort of history will give them confidence as they aim to avoid missing out on a European Championships for the first time since the 2000 edition held in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Supporters of English football will be familiar with a few names on the Croatian roster. Champions League winner Dejan Lovren represents a crucial part of the defence, whilst Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric is arguably the team’s key player. However, the likes of Ivan Rakitić, Ante Rebić, Nikola Vlašić, Marko Rog and Filip Bradarić have all had to withdraw due to injuries. As a result, Alen Halihovic has been called up to bolster the squad.
In comparison to Croatia’s excellent record of qualifying for European Championships, Ryan Giggs’ men are aiming to reach only their second competition having also appeared three years ago. The Dragons performed excellently as they reached the semi-finals in France. They have got off to a perfect start in qualifying this time around by racking up a 1-0 win over Slovakia. As a matter of fact, that victory means that the team have now notched two consecutive wins having also edged past Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly. They now have an excellent opportunity to win three international games in a row for the first time since October 2017. That was also the last time that the Dragons managed to string together three consecutive clean sheets. Their record away from Wales could also give them some confidence too having only lost three out of their last ten games in all competitions on the road.
Giggs has a few injury problems for their qualifiers though. Mercurial midfielder Aaron Ramsey has been left out of the squad due to injury, whilst Paul Dummett and Tyler Roberts are also absent. However, Tottenham Hotspur defender Ben Davies has been able to join up after his hernia treatment was postponed.
Key Facts To Consider
- Wales have never beaten Croatia in an international match (W0, D1, L3)
- The Dragons have only ever scored two goals against Croatia
- Croatia have not lost a home qualifier since 2013
- Wales’ all-time record goalscorer, Gareth Bale, scored the last time the two teams met
- Croatia have only kept one clean sheet in their last eight games
Wales come into this match with confidence, whilst Dalic’s troops are in a slight tricky patch. Nevertheless, the hosts cannot be discounted considering their great record at home and in qualifiers in general. As a result, supporters could potentially expect an entertaining clash in Osijek, possibly in the form of a high-scoring draw.
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