Wales v Croatia: Chris Coleman's side must win to keep World Cup hopes alive
Last Updated: 26/03/13 6:58pm
Gareth Bale: The Tottenham Hotspur winger will come up against former team-mate Luka Modric
Wales gave their World Cup campaign a major boost by beating Scotland on Friday but must now overcome Croatia on home turf to keep their hopes of qualification alive.
A 2-1 victory at Hampden Park moved Chris Coleman's side to within seven points of second place in Group A - a position held by Tuesday's opposition - but having lost three of their five games so far, there is no more room for error.
A win over the Croats would also inject both confidence and belief into the team that they can reach Rio given that two of their last four matches are against struggling Macedonia.
However, taking three points off Igor Stimac's men is far from a forgone conclusion. Wales were soundly beaten 2-0 at the Stadion Maksimir in October, which was one of four wins the Croats have already notched up in the group so far.
Indeed, the only points they have dropped were in a closely fought 1-1 draw against table-toppers Belgium in September.
History is also against the Welsh, who are yet to beat Croatia in their three meetings to date (two defeats, one draw) and have registered back-to-back wins in qualifying campaigns just three times since 1998, the last being 18 months ago.
And it also can't be forgotten that Croatia are just as desperate for a win as Wales are. They are locked on the same number of points as the Belgians and, with crunch reverse fixtures against Serbia and Belgium still to come, they will have identified their trip to the Liberty Stadium as a must-win match.
They can also call on the services of Real Madrid's Luka Modric, who caused havoc in the win over the Welsh earlier in the campaign.
Gareth Bale is expected to be fit to face Croatia after recovering from the stomach virus problems that forced him off at half-time against Scotland on Friday.
The Tottenham Hotspur winger trained on Sunday and Monday and is expected to play at the Liberty Stadium.
Jack Collison will not figure after being pulled out of the squad due to his inability to play twice in four days as he continues to recover from long-term injury, while Aaron Ramsey is unavailable through suspension. In their place, Leicester City's Andy King and Crystal Palace's Jonny Williams are both set to start.
Croatia manager Igor Stimac is expected to be without Niko Kranjcar after the former Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth midfielder picked up a knee injury.
He is likely to be replaced with Josip Radosevic or Inter Milan's Mateo Kovacic.
Stimac also has to decide whether to play veterans Josip Simunic, 35, and Ivica Olic, 33, for a second successive match. Domagoj Vida and Everton's Nikica Jelavic are both waiting in the wings should they drop out.
Previous game's starting line-ups
- 1 Hennessey
- 2 Gunter
- 5 Collins
- 6 Williams A
- 3 Taylor
- 4 Huws
- 7 Allen
- 8 Robson-Kanu
- 10 King
- 11 Bale
- 9 Vokes
Team taken from Wales vs Iceland (International Match) on Wednesday 5th March 2014
- 23 Subasic
- 3 Pranjic
- 5 Corluka
- 11 Srna
- 6 Lovren
- 14 Males
- 4 Perisic
- 7 Rakitic
- 20 Kovacic
- 9 Jelavic
- 18 Olic
Team taken from Croatia vs Switzerland (International Match) on Wednesday 5th March 2014
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FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Tue 26th Mar - Group B
Armenia0 - 3Czech Rep
Denmark1 - 1Bulgaria
Malta0 - 2Italy
Tue 26th Mar - Group F
Azerbaijan0 - 2Portugal
N Ireland0 - 2Israel
Tue 26th Mar - Group D
Estonia2 - 0Andorra
Turkey1 - 1Hungary
Netherlands4 - 0Romania
Tue 26th Mar - Group H
Ukraine2 - 1Moldova
Poland5 - 0San Marino
Montenegro1 - 1England
Tue 26th Mar - Group A
Serbia2 - 0Scotland
Belgium1 - 0Macedonia
Wales1 - 2Croatia
Tue 26th Mar - Group C
Rep Ireland2 - 2Austria
Germany4 - 1Kazakhstan
Tue 26th Mar - Group I
France0 - 1Spain
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||10||14|
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
Wales v Croatia
Chris Coleman has hinted that his long-term future may not lie with Wales after admitting his frustrations in the job.
Wales boss Chris Coleman was full of praise for his players despite seeing them slip to a 2-1 home defeat to Croatia.
Dejan Lovren's long range goal silenced the Wales crowd at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.