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Preview: Cyprus vs. Croatia - prediction, team news, lineups
08/10/2021 13:53:11

World Cup 2018 finalists Croatia travel to Cyprus on Friday as they continue their qualifying campaign for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

Zlatko Dalic's side currently sit top of Group H in European qualifying, while their hosts are bottom of the group.

We say: Cyprus 0-3 Croatia

With the group's worst attack coming up against the best defence, this game should be fairly straightforward to predict. Croatia have their eyes set on qualification and will be boosted by Modric's return, so will ease past Cyprus.

Match preview

Since losing 1-0 to Slovenia in their first qualifying game, Croatia have not lost or conceded a goal in their five subsequent matches – winning four and drawing one.

The Balkan nation have qualified for five of the last six World Cups, but have had to rely on the playoffs on four of those occasions.

This time around they are hunting automatic entry and moved above Russia on goal difference to the top of Group H with a 3-0 victory over Slovenia last month.

With just one goal let in in six qualifying matches, Croatia's defensive record is only bettered in Europe by Denmark, who are yet to concede.

However, Dalic's men have only won one of their last six away games, and even that sole victory was only secured late on as Marcelo Brozovic's 86th-minute goal defeated Slovakia last month.

Opponents Cyprus have lost just one of their last four home matches, but a surprise result on Friday still seems unlikely.

The island nation, who have only won 16 of their 120 games in World Cup qualification history, are currently on a run of five successive defeats without scoring.

Nikos Kostenoglou was appointed manager in February and the team have scored only once in his eight games in charge - Ioannis Pittas's goal in a 1-0 win over Slovenia in March.

It means that Cyprus are the joint-lowest scorers in European qualifying along with Lithuania and San Marino.

There have only been two previous meetings between these two nations and Croatia have won them both, including a 1-0 victory earlier in this qualifying campaign courtesy of Mario Pasalic's goal.

Team News

Ioannis Pittas is the only player to score for Cyprus in their qualifying campaign so far and could come back into the starting lineup after dropping to the bench last time out against Slovakia.

Pieros Sotiriou, the fourth-highest scorer in the nation's history with ten goals, is set to return after missing September's qualifiers through injury.

Croatia are also boosted by a returning talisman, with Luka Modric back available after his absence last month.

Zlatko Dalic has seen goalkeeper Ivica Ivusic and defensive pair Dejan Lovren and Josip Juranovic pull out of the squad in recent days due to injury.

Fellow defender Domagoj Vida has only just returned from a foot injury so may not be risked, but Lovren's absence could force the Besiktas man to feature.

Cyprus possible starting lineup:

Michail; Karo, K. Sotiriou, Katelaris; Psaltis, Kastanos, Artymatas, Avraam; Loizou, P. Sotiriou, Pittas

Croatia possible starting lineup:

Livakovic; Uremovic, Vida, Caleta-Car, Barisic; Brozovic, Kovacic, Modric; Ivanusec, Kramaric, Perisic

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