Croatia and Ukraine Square off for the First Place in Group IPublished March 24, 2017 by Florin P
Croatia could secure its presence at the World Cup by winning at home against Ukraine. (7:45 p.m UK Time).
Croatia and Ukraine are yet to lose a match in Group I, but something’s got to give when they meet in Zagreb. A draw would benefit the hosts as they sit in the second place, but Iceland is within striking distance. Only the top two teams will advance to the World Cup in Russia, so the stakes are as high as they get and there’s no room for mistakes.
Croatia's Invincibility Spans over Two Years
The home side hasn’t lost a match regulation time in the last two years and the streak spans over 20 matches. Home pitch advantage has been huge so far in the group stage and they’ll try to capitalize on it when Ukraine comes visiting. The starting formation features two strikers and several offensive midfielders, which suggests that Croatia will go for victory.
After a relatively slow start against Turkey, Croatia won the next three qualifying games and also a friendly match against Northern Ireland without conceding a goal. This is their biggest asset ahead of this fixture, against the Ukrainian team that has problems in scoring goals on the road.
Defensive Minded Ukraine Travels to Zagreb
The visitors are also riding a lengthy winning streak and prevented opponents from scoring in the last three games. They were unable to win against the better teams in the group and both Turkey and Iceland were on the verge of walking away with all three points. Against Croatia, they will play defensive football and use a single striker, most likely Yarmolenko.
Punters might be put off by the fact that bet365 Sports only offers odds of 3/5 on Croatia to win. Granted the odds are not very high, the only real risk is the one of the match ending in a scoreless draw. Given Croatia’s recent performance and their head to head record with Ukraine, the risks are worth taking.