Ukraine vs Croatia, Monday, October 9 19:45 BST/20:45 CET Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex – Kyiv, Ukraine
Match Day 9 saw Ukraine defeat Kosovo to keep pace with its opponents in Group I. Croatia was held to a draw against Finland while Iceland routed Turkey. As things stand, Iceland leads the group with 19 points. Meanwhile, Croatia and Ukraine are tied for second with 17 points.
Match Day 10 will see Turkey travel to Finland while Iceland face Kosovo. On paper, it seems Turkish and Icelandic victories are a foregone conclusion, and Iceland should top the group. The match in Kyiv, however, is not as clear-cut. Ukraine will host Croatia, and this game will provide a winner take all scenario.
Ukraine’s objective is simple: win, and it will take at least second place in Group I, where a playoff spot in the second round of qualification is possible. A draw or loss, however, will inevitably disqualify them from World Cup contention. While the objective is simple, the execution of the stated goal will be challenging.
Croatia, however, have some breathing space. After seeing Turkey’s elimination to Iceland, vatreni knows that a draw will be enough to secure second place in Group I since it holds a better goal differential than Ukraine. Given this luxury, it is predicted that Croatia will be happy to sit back and invite Ukraine to attack, where it will look to exploit zbirna on the counterattack.
Given the stakes, the situation does not look good for zbirna. It is expected vatreni will field a more experienced squad to ensure that it gets a result in Kyiv. Many of Croatia’s squad currently play in the top leagues of European football, and this will undoubtedly show. Croatia outmatched Ukraine back in Zagreb, and it is expected that a similar result will occur in Kyiv.
Shevchenko’s outfit will be frustrated about the missed chances against Iceland and Turkey on matchdays 1 and 2, where it failed to collect all three points. A predicted loss against Croatia will see Ukraine fail to qualify for its first international competition under Shevchenko’s managerial tenure.
Ukraine vs Croatia – Players to Watch:
Yevhen Khacheridi #3 – Ukraine (Dynamo Kyiv)
Infamously known for being a hot-headed player, his composure will be vital in this match. Should he attempt to play recklessly, he will certainly let his national team down. Moreover, this is a major game for Ukraine, as anything other than a victory will see zbirna eliminated from World Cup contention. Having been sent off against France during the FIFA 2014 World Cup playoffs, Khacheridi will hope to redeem himself for his country. This match may provide that opportunity.
Mario Mandžukić #17 – Croatia (Juventus)
The striker’s reputation is well known. The Croatian has had a remarkable career, having won the UEFA Champions League with Bayern München, while also making appearances in the finals with Atlético Madrid and Juventus. Moreover, he is also Croatia’s leading goal scorer in Group I. Given his experience, and regular play time in top-tier football, it is expected he will torment Ukraine’s defenders. If Ukraine have any hope of getting a positive result from this fixture, its defence will need to contain Mandžukić.
Ukraine vs Croatia Match Stats
- Ukraine’s Artem Kravets and Ivan Ordets are suspended for this match.
- This is the third time in their history that Ukraine and Croatia have been paired against one another in World Cup qualification (1998 playoffs; 2010 and 2018 group stages).
- Of these fixtures, Croatia currently leads the head-to-head record with 2 wins, 3 draws, and 0 defeats.
- Ukraine first faced Croatia in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March, where vatreni won 1-0.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Ukraine vs Croatia 0-1
Ukraine vs Croatia – Possible Lineups
Pyatov – Matviyenko, Kucher, Khacheridi, Karavaev – Stepanenko, Rotan – Yarmolenko, Kovalenko, Konoplyanka – Besyedin
Manager: Andriy Shevchenko
Subašić – Vrsaljko, Mitrović, Vida, Pivarić – Modrić, Rakatić – Brozović, Kramarić, Perišić – Mandžukić
Manager: Ante ČačićMark Temnycky is a Ukrainian-American who earned a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in June 2017. He is pursuing a career in international relations and foreign policy. Follow Mark on Twitter @MTem33