Although it looks far from the most important or exciting of tonight’s internationals, the outcome of this game could be essential to the battle currently taking place in Group 6, to qualify for South Africa 2010.
The fate of three teams from this group are virtually already decided. Andorra and Kazakhstan have very little chance of achieving qualification, collecting 0 and 3 points respectively so far. Leading the pack by some margin are England. With a 10-point advantage and only three more games to play, it is extremely unlikely that they will not be participating in next year’s World Cup.
Who will take second place, on the other hand, is a different story. Croatia, Ukraine and Belarus are all capable of finishing runners-up to England, which is why tonight’s game at the Dinamo stadium is a ‘must win’ for both teams involved.
Croatia are favourites, and no wonder; their squad consists of players from the Premier League, the Bundesliga, and several Champions League regulars. Belarus, on paper, look less than impressive, but their form will tell you otherwise. They have won three of their last four World Cup qualifiers, two of them with a four-goal deficit, and could well be the surprise package for next year’s tournament.
Arsenal fans may be particularly interested in the game, as ex-Gooner Alexander Hleb and current starlet Eduardo da Silva line up against each other.
Eduardo has only taken part in one of Croatia’s qualifying games so far, but made an immediate impact, scoring in a 2-0 victory against Andorra. Hleb, however, is the driving force of the team, easily his country’s best and most well known player. He will lead the team out despite not being 100% match fit, currently recovering from an injury sustained in Stuttgart’s opening league game.
Possible Line Ups:
A near full strength squad for Belarus: Zhevnov; Sasnowski, Yurevich, Lentsevich, Shytaw; Kashevsky, Hleb, Kulchiy, Kalachev; Bulyha, Kutusov.
Croatia welcome back Eduardo and Modric from injury: Pletikosa; Cale, Corluka, Simunic, Krizanac; Leko, Srna, Kranjcar, Modric; Olic, Eduardo.
Player to Watch:
Luka Modric. Croatia’s World Cup qualifying campaign has seen three goals and some excellent performances from the Spurs midfielder. Expect him to continue this good form tonight.
Belarus 0-2 Croatia. Despite the pluckiness of their opponents, Croatia’s superior quality will secure a comfortable victory.
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