Preview: Slovakia vs Croatia – prediction, team news, lineups
Slovakia and Croatia continue their World Cup qualification campaign on Saturday night in a group where the best and last are separated by just three points.
While Croatia could clearly advance to the top of Group H with the weekend’s win, the defeat in Bratislava could put them at risk of slipping into the mid-table positions.
Retaining the finalist tag in the last World Cup, losing nine of their last 18 matches represents a considerable fall for Zlatko Dalic and his team.
To some extent, Croatia is going through a transitional period with some of its top players now on the wrong side of the 30s, but that is no excuse for their inconsistency over the last 12 months.
While suffering a round of 16 outings against Spain at Euro 2020 was far from an embarrassment, only a flurry from the second half against Scotland in the previous match reserved his place in the knockout stages.
When it comes to qualifying for the World Cup, Dalic will capitalize on the positive aspects of Croatia by leading Group H with a trip to Russia already out of the way.
That said, scoring four times in as many games is not good enough for this team, which is under pressure to meet the only undefeated nation left in the group.
There is an argument that Slovakia has also underperformed during their qualifiers, having been contested by players like Cyprus and Malta.
On the other hand, Stefan Tarkovic will feel his team on the rise, a 2-1 win over Russia followed by a draw in Slovenia earlier this week.
Although that portion of the loot means there is little room for error, Slovakia now has the advantage of playing back-to-back home games with Croatia and Cyprus.
Robert Bozenik, who has just left Feyenoord for Fortuna Dusseldorf, ended his nearly two-year wait for his fifth international goal by scoring his team’s first goal on Wednesday night.
Slovakia possible starting lineup:
Rodak; Pekarik, Satka, Skriniar, Holubek; Hamsik, Lobotka, Kucka; Schranz, Bozenik, Mak
Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Skoric, Sosa; Pasalic, Brozovic, Kovacic; Vlasic; Kramaric, Perisic