Friday, October 11, 2013
Croatia vs Belgium
Belgium travel to Croatia for their Group A clash of World Cup 2014 qualifying round this Friday. The Belgians lead Group A with 22 points from eight games. With two games to go, Belgium know that all they need is a draw to secure World Cup qualification ahead of their final game against Wales next week. However, they will be careful not to lose top spot to the hosts. Croatia, on the other hand, know that they will finish at least second in the group no matter what they do in their last two Group A games. However, they will be looking to defeat the Belgians on their home turf in front of their fans to gain automatic qualification for Brazil.
Team News and Tactics
The 0-1 defeat to Scotland dashed their hopes of automatic qualification and now they will need to beat the Belgians to have any hopes of qualifying top of Group A. Confidence seems to be low in the Croatian camp, however, with former Tottenham Hotspur defender Vedran Corluka admitting the atmosphere surrounding the team was poor. Beating the talented Belgian side is a huge ask of the Croatians, who will hope their passionate fans can turn the game in their favour.
The Belgians are tipped to get the point they need to top Group A. however they will have to do it without defender Vincent Kompany and striker Christian Benteke. Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku, who is on loan at Everton, is likely to replace Benteke, while Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen is a doubt ahead of the trip to Croatia.
On the bright side, Marouane Fellaini is fit to play for the Belgians after his wrist surgery was pushed to December. Fellaini participated in training on Tuesday and will feature in Croatia with a protective cast. Belgium coach Marc Wilmots assured fans that their team would be going for a win despite needing just a draw to qualify.
The Belgians need just a point to qualify for Europe. Knowing this, the Belgians will try to be strong defensively to close out any potential threat from the Croatians. With Kompany and Vermaelen missing, the onus falls on Jan Verthonghen to steer the Belgians on course for the draw. The Spurs defender likes to play the role of the libero, so it will not be surprising to see him charging down the field with the ball, into the opposition half from time to time.