MX23RW : Tuesday, July 27 03:22:18| >> :600:1447524:1447524:
Mar 27, 2021 at 5pm UK at Stadion HNK Rijeka
CroatiaCroatia
1-0
CyprusCyprus
Pasalic (40')
Caleta-Car (48'), Perisic (69'), Kovacic (90+3')
FT(HT: 1-0)

'Nikos' Kostenoglou (90')

Preview: Croatia vs. Cyprus - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Croatia and Cyprus, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Aiming to bounce back from a shock defeat to Slovenia on matchday one, Croatia welcome Cyprus to the Stadion Rujevica for the second game of their World Cup Qualifying campaign in Group H.

Zlatko Dalic's side were nullified by Slovenia in a 1-0 defeat on Wednesday evening, while Cyprus took a point from their dull affair with Slovakia.


Match preview

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic pictured on November 11, 2020© Reuters

Not even the bright attacking quartet of Luka Modric, Nikola Vlasic, Andrej Kramaric and Ivan Perisic could find a way past Jan Oblak's Slovenia rearguard on Wednesday, as the 2018 World Cup finalists began their road to Qatar 2022 in disastrous fashion with a narrow 1-0 defeat to their neighbours.

Sandi Lovric's 15th-minute strike ended up proving the difference between the two sides, and with Cyprus and Slovakia both taking a point from their battle on the same evening, Croatia are already a step behind their rivals in the race for a top-two finish.

However, one defeat is hardly cause for alarm for Dalic, although he admitted that his side "deserved nothing" from their opening match - which is exactly what they got - but Croatia will undoubtedly be eyeing maximum points from their next two fixtures against Cyprus and Malta.

Failure to take six points from six in those matches would be cause for concern for a Croatia side who have now lost four of their last five matches in all competitions, including each of their last three, and Wednesday's defeat represented the first time in 21 matches that Dalic's men had failed to score - a run stretching all the way back to a goalless draw with England in October 2018.

As a result, the hosts ought to feel confident about their chances of finding the back of the net and returning to winning ways on their own turf, but Cyprus are no pushovers - as evidenced by their defensive resolve against Slovakia at the GSP Stadium.

Cyprus manager Nikos Kostenoglou pictured in March 2021© Reuters

Cyprus' agonising wait for a first ever appearance at a World Cup finals goes on, but Nikos Kostenoglou's side certainly gave a good account of themselves by holding Slovakia to a draw in the opening matchday - a result which pleased the hosts even though the three points could have been there for the taking.

Kostenoglou's men had eight shots on target but could not find a way past the impenetrable wall that was Martin Dubravka, so while a point from their first battle is something to write home about, Cyprus may view that match as a missed opportunity to put pressure on the big boys in Group H.

Wednesday's goalless stalemate saw Cyprus claim fourth spot in the rankings with nine matches left to play, but they are certainly not expected to mount a top-two charge having won just one of their last 12 games in all competitions, although avoiding defeat against Croatia would represent an impressive start to qualifying for the Mediterranean nation.

However, with 18 defeats from their last 23 on rival soil, Cyprus supporters will not be expecting miracles on matchday two, and their only previous meeting with Croatia ended in a 2-0 win for the Chequered Ones in 2014 thanks to a double from Mario Mandzukic.

Croatia World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L

Croatia form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • L

Cyprus World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D

Cyprus form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • D


Team News

Croatia players celebrate Mario Pasalic's goal against Turkey on November 11, 2020© Reuters

Croatia manager Dalic affirmed that Borna Barisic's substitution at half time was down to fears of the Rangers man being sent off, but the left-back will hope to be given another chance this weekend.

Atalanta's Mario Pasalic could provide some fresh legs in midfield as Croatia aim to make the net ripple, while Josip Brekalo and Mislav Orsic are both candidates to replace Ivan Perisic on the left flank.

With Ante Rebic and Bruno Petkovic both nursing injuries, Andrej Kramaric should continue to spearhead the attack over Ante Budimir.

Cyprus have no reason to make many alterations after a solid first game, but goalkeeper Dimitris Dimitriou and winger Ioannis Pittas will miss their third game with Slovenia if they pick up bookings.

Hibernian midfielder Alex Gogic will hope to earn his fifth cap for the national team here, while Pieros Sotiriou is two strikes away from matching Constantinos Charalambidis - the country's third highest goalscorer - in the charts.

Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Vrsaljko, Caleta-Car, Lovren, Barisic; Modric, Kovacic; Vlasic, Pasalic, Perisic; Kramaric

Cyprus possible starting lineup:
Dimitriou; Psaltis, K. Sotiriou, Laifis, Ioannou; Artymatas, Kyriakou, Kastanos; Papoulis, P. Sotiriou, Pittas


SM words green background

We say: Croatia 2-0 Cyprus

Cyprus can be encouraged by their performance against Slovakia, but attempting to get one over the 2018 finalists will likely be a step too far. Dalic will be demanding an immediate reaction from his side and has talented players waiting in the wings, so we can only back a win for the hosts on Saturday.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data


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