A place at the 2024 UEFA European Championship is on the line as Wales and Croatia go head-to-head in a pivotal qualifying Group D showdown in Cardiff tomorrow.
The encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium has all the makings of a ‘make or break’ contest for Rob Page’s side as their bid to appear at a third consecutive Euro finals hangs in the balance.
Wales eased past continental minnows Gibraltar 4-0 in a low-profile warm-up fixture on Wednesday, building up a head of steam after a 2-0 away victory over Latvia in their last Euro 2024 qualifier.
Following a topsy-turvy five-match start to their Group D campaign (W2, D1, L2), there’s no margin for error, with the Dragons trailing runners-up Croatia by three points going into the last three matchdays.
Despite suffering an underwhelming 1-0 home defeat to Turkey in the lead-up to this trip, the 2022 World Cup bronze medalists remain in a pole position to reach next summer’s tournament.
Croatia last failed to qualify for the Euro finals in 2000, and avoiding defeat in Cardiff would bolster their chances of maintaining their impressive qualification ratio.
However, Zlatko Dalic’s side are vulnerable to falling out of the top two if Wales can pull off their first-ever H2H win over the former Yugoslavia republic.
Don’t miss a minute of this high-stakes encounter. Check out our live football streams to follow all Euro 2024 qualifiers from the comfort of your home.
Wales’ mini-revival can inspire some confidence around the Dragons camp, but they would be wise not to take anything for granted, given the stature of their opposition.
Before stringing together back-to-back wins, Page’s men had only won once in their 13 previous internationals, casting doubt on their quest to beat Croatia for the first time.
Nathan Broadhead’s stoppage-time strike inspired Wales to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in Split, which was merely enough for only their third stalemate in seven meetings with the Checkered Ones (L4).
Returning to the Cardiff City Stadium won’t necessarily tilt the scales in the Dragons’ favour, considering their last Euro 2024 qualifier at this venue yielded a disastrous 4-2 defeat to Armenia in June.
After suffering their first Euro qualifying loss in over four years, Croatia stare down the barrel of consecutive defeats in Euro qualifiers for the first time as an independent nation.
However, Dalic’s side has excelled on foreign soil since winning the bronze medal in Qatar, winning all three competitive away matches, including Euro 2024 qualifying triumphs over Armenia and Turkey ‘to nil.’
Another clean sheet could prove a qualification-defining achievement, but it’s worth noting the Checkered Ones have conceded on both previous visits to Wales.
Irrespective of their ability to fend off the Dragons, a low-scoring is seemingly in store, with three of Croatia’s last four internationals featuring one goal or fewer.
With long-serving Wales international Aaron Ramsey sidelined with an injury, Tottenham Hotspur defender Ben Davies should wear the captain’s armband on Sunday.
Davies’ clubmate Brennan Johnson is another notable injury absentee in the home camp, meaning Harry Wilson and Daniel James should provide support to lone striker Kieffer Moore from the flanks.
Croatia will take this trip without Spurs wing-back Ivan Perisic, TSG Hoffenheim forward Andrej Kramaric and Feyenoord winger Luka Ivanusec.
As Benfica’s Petar Musa and Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic underperformed against Turkey, there’s a good chance Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic could take their places in the starting line-up.
Wales potential starting line-up:
(3-4-2-1): Joel Ward; Chris Mepham, Joe Rodon, Ben Davies; Connor Roberts, Jordan James, Ethan Ampadu, Neco Williams; Harry Wilson, Daniel James; Kieffer Moore.
Croatia potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Dominik Livakovic; Josip Stanisic, Josip Sutalo, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa; Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic; Nikola Vlasic, Bruno Petkovic, Josip Brekalo.
We Say: Wales 1-1 Croatia
As FIFA’s sixth-ranked nation, it’s hard to expect Croatia to fail twice in less than a week.
But Wales can be a thorn in anyone’s side on home soil, so we back Page’s side to avoid defeat, though it wouldn’t increase their qualification hopes much.
- Manchester City back on track after 2-1 victory over Luton Town
- Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal: Bailey goal extends Villains’ unbeaten home run
- Pep Guardiola denies City are reliant on Rodri but the stats disagree
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Arsenal – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Man Utd boss Ten Hag scoops Premier League MOTM award
- This Week In Football: Last-minute UWNL drama, Santos relegated & more
- Morning Mix: Arsenal face acid test at Villa, Chelsea boss has no excuses
- Arsenal or Liverpool: Who is better placed to beat Man City to the title?
- Copa America 2024 draw: Argentina to face Chile, Brazil and USMNT discover their groups
- Four reasons PSV Eindhoven are overtaking Ajax on and off the pitch