Wales will be looking to build on their first victory under manager Chris Coleman with a positive result away in Croatia, but do not have an easy task on their hands. Igor Stimac’s side have seven points from their three games and look strong to qualify in a tough group.
At the sixth time of asking, Coleman got a victory as Wales manager with a 2-1 victory over Scotland. Controversy surrounded Gareth Bale’s first goal from the penalty spot, with suggestions that he may have dived to win that spotkick, but the second goal was sheer quality to give Wales a much-needed victory. Three goals have been scored by Wales under Coleman’s tenure and all by the Tottenham winger, who is a real talisman for his country.
Ashley Williams is expected to captain Wales once again after recently taking over the armband from Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who will miss the Croatia game. Ramsey is suspended for one match and is replaced in the squad by Wolves midfielder Dave Edwards. The Dragons are still without Boaz Myhill or Wayne Hennessey in net, so Lewis Price is expected to remain in goal.
Croatia have no injuries or suspensions following their 2-1 win in Macedonia, so are expected to name an unchanged side. Stimac’s side are led by Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric and Everton striker Nikica Jelavic, but the latter has only one goal so far in qualifying. Mario Mandzukic from Bayern Munich will partner Jelavic up front, a combination that decimated the Republic of Ireland in Euro 2012 with Croatia’s 3-1 victory.
Stimac’s side are unbeaten at home in their last 10 qualifying fixtures and their last defeat came at the hands of England in 2008. Wales will be buoyed by their victory over Scotland, but they left it late to do so and the absence of Ramsey could have an effect. Croatia will be looking to strengthen their position towards the top of the table, especially with Belgium in great form above them.
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