Croatia v Wales preview
Chris Coleman's side looking for second successive victory
Last Updated: October 16, 2012 11:08am
Wales will head to Croatia for their fourth 2014 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday brimming with confidence and optimism.
- Wales have lost six of their last seven away games in all competitions, winning the other 1-0 in Bulgaria back in October 2011.
- Croatia have only won two of their last five matches at home.
- Croatia have won one and drawn one of their previous two matches against Wales.
After losing their opening two games in Group A to Belgium and Serbia, the Dragons looked to have lost their way in the qualification campaign.
However, Gareth Bale inspired Chris Coleman's side to a 2-1 comeback victory over Scotland at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday, scoring two goals in the final 10 minutes.
That win has put Wales back in contention for a place in the World Cup finals in Brazil, and Coleman is hoping that the Tottenham Hotspur winger stars at Stadion Gradski vrt as well.
"We've got options with Gareth," he said. "He can be devastating when he plays out wide and cuts inside his full-back.
"But it's always an option to play him in the centre. We're missing Aaron [Ramsey] at the wrong time really.
"Gareth knows where he can hurt the opposition. When you have good players you don't want to pigeon-hole them.
"Look where he got the winning goal [against Scotland] from - yet he was playing on the right side for us. But when he runs through the middle he can cause other teams problems."
Croatia, though, are likely to be better prepared to combat the 23-year-old especially at home.
Igor Stimac's side are unbeaten in Group A with two wins and a draw, picking up seven points from three matches.
Croatia are second to Belgium only on goal difference and will head into the clash with Wales on the back of a 2-1 away win against Macedonia.
Coach Stimac has taken involving fans to a whole new level, asking them on Facebook to help him choose his squad for Tuesday's match, and is desperate for a win.
"The points against Wales are as important as those we have already won," he said. "We will do all that is necessary in order to win them, and regardless of the Welsh optimism after beating Scotland, do not expect a different outcome.
"We must take initiative to control the game and force Wales to continually defend and thus thwart their creativity. Victory is our obligation."
Croatia are likely to deploy the same starting XI that got the better of Macedonia on Friday, with Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric in midfield and Nikica Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic leading the attack.
Wales are without the suspended midfielder Ramsey, who has been replaced by David Edwards.
Defender Adam Matthews remains a doubt with an ankle injury, but Darcy Blake is likely to overcome a knee injury.
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FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Tue 16th Oct - Group F
Russia1 - 0Azerbaijan
Israel3 - 0Luxembourg
Portugal1 - 1N Ireland
Tue 16th Oct - Group I
Belarus2 - 0Georgia
Spain1 - 1France
Tue 16th Oct - Group G
Latvia2 - 0Liechtenstein
Bosnia3 - 0Lithuania
Slovakia0 - 1Greece
Tue 16th Oct - Group D
Andorra0 - 1Estonia
Romania1 - 4Netherlands
Hungary3 - 1Turkey
Tue 16th Oct - Group B
Czech Rep0 - 0Bulgaria
Italy3 - 1Denmark
Tue 16th Oct - Group H
Ukraine0 - 1Montenegro
San Marino0 - 2Moldova
Tue 16th Oct - Group A
Croatia2 - 0Wales
Macedonia1 - 0Serbia
Belgium2 - 0Scotland
Tue 16th Oct - Group E
Cyprus1 - 3Norway
Iceland0 - 2Switzerland
Albania1 - 0Slovenia
Tue 16th Oct - Group C
Faroe Islands1 - 4Rep Ireland
Austria4 - 0Kazakhstan
Germany4 - 4Sweden
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group A
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group B
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||5||8|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group D
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group E
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group F
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group G
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group H
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group I
Croatia v Wales
Joe Allen believes that Wales still have a chance of qualifying for the World Cup, and the team will fight.
Wales boss Chris Coleman admits he had hoped the poor conditions in Croatia on Tuesday night would benefit his side.
Chris Coleman bemoaned Wales' bad luck after the defeat by Croatia but had praise for a battling performance.