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Euro Champ Qualifying | Group Stage
Nov 21, 2023 at 7.45pm UK
Education City Stadium
1 - 0
Budimir (43')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Piloyan (87')

Preview: Croatia vs. Armenia - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Croatia vs. Armenia - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Euro Champ Qualifying clash between Croatia and Armenia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Victory will seal Croatia's place at Euro 2024 on Tuesday evening, as they host Group D rivals Armenia in their final qualifying fixture.

The teams convene at Stadion Maksimir with the home side only needing to match the result of Wales in order to secure their spot in Germany; the visitors, meanwhile, have already been eliminated.

Match preview

After Armenia held Wales to a draw earlier in the day, Croatia leapfrogged Rob Page's Dragons in the Group D table on Saturday evening, seizing back control of their qualification destiny with a 2-0 win in Latvia.

Lovro Majer and Andrej Kramaric both struck within the first 20 minutes at Riga's Skonto Stadion, and the recent World Cup bronze-medallists then cruised to victory shortly after their Welsh counterparts were restricted to one point in Armenia.

Having slipped up twice last month, with back-to-back defeats against group winners Turkey and then Wales, Croatia can now qualify directly for next summer's Euros if they take maximum points in midweek - or even if they draw or lose and Turkey deny Wales a win.

Nonetheless, long-serving coach Zlatko Dalic - who has led his nation so close to unprecedented glory over the past few years - will be acutely aware that the UEFA Nations League runners-up cannot afford to be complacent.

Failure to wrap up runners-up spot would mean entering the lottery of the playoffs, in which the Kockasti's place is assured thanks to their superb run to the Nations League final.

If Croatia cannot make it to Germany via the front door, they will be forced to take a more laborious route towards a sixth straight European Championship finals, where their target will be finally collecting some silverware before more members of the 'golden generation' step aside.

After coming up short in their penultimate Group D fixture, Armenia can no longer sneak into the top two, so dreams of a first-ever tournament appearance have been ended once again.

Hopes of an improbable late surge up the standings rose when Lucas Zelarayan fired home the first goal against Wales at the weekend, but despite also striking the woodwork later on, the home side could only draw 1-1 in Yerevan, as an own goal from Nair Tiknizyan cancelled out Zelarayan's opener.

It could have been so different for the nation placed 95th in FIFA's world rankings, who upset Wales in Cardiff during the summer to move into contention: in three subsequent matches, they increased their points tally by just one, most notably suffering a shock defeat to Latvia.

As a result, Ukrainian coach Oleksandr Petrakov and his diverse squad drawn from the Armenian diaspora will sit out next year's finals, and the wait goes on for a major finals debut.

Two draws and three defeats from their last five outings may also leave Petrakov's position in some jeopardy, as his side are now likely to finish fourth in the final table.

Croatia Euro Champ Qualifying form:

Croatia form (all competitions):

Armenia Euro Champ Qualifying form:

Armenia form (all competitions):

Read more!

Team News

Increasingly injury-prone, Croatia's Mateo Kovacic withdrew from Zlatko Dalic's squad last week after suffering another setback with his recurring quad problem, and the Manchester City midfielder joins long-term absentee Ivan Perisic on the sidelines.

Bruno Petkovic and Nikola Vlasic are also ruled out by injury, but first-choice striker Andrej Kramaric and Feyenoord winger Luka Ivanusec both returned to the fray in Latvia at the weekend; Kramaric has netted four goals from five Group D appearances so far.

A teammate of Kovacic in Manchester, Josko Gvardiol should again feature at left-back for the home side, given Dalic's dissatisfaction with the alternative options, and a similar side to that which started in Riga should be named on Tuesday.

Armenia, meanwhile, will be without captain Varazdat Haroyan in midweek, after he picked up his third booking of the Euro 2024 qualifying process last time out.

Due to the Astana centre-back's suspension, Taron Voskanyan could be called upon to deputise in the visitors' back five, forcing Oleksandr Petrakov to make at least one change from the team that lined up against Wales.

Argentina-born Lucas Zelarayan should feature in the final third, alongside Borussia Monchengladbach striker Grant-Leon Ranos, who was born and raised in Germany but switched allegiance earlier this year.

Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Stanisic, Sutalo, Erlic, Gvardiol; Modric, Brozovic, Majer; Pasalic, Kramaric, Ivanusec

Armenia possible starting lineup:
Cancarevic; Dashyan, Calisir, Voskanyan, Arutyunyan, Tiknizyan; Sevikyan, Iwu, Spertsyan, Zelarayan; Ranos

We say: Croatia 2-1 Armenia

Although Armenia have little left to play for, the former Soviet nation have proven themselves tough opponents throughout much of their Group D campaign, and Croatia only won September's reverse fixture by a single goal.

After losing for the first time at home in European Championship qualifying last month, the home side will be keen to reach Euro 2024 in style - but it may be a closer call than many observers expect.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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Read more about Lucas Zelarayan Andrej Kramaric Lovro Majer Zlatko Dalic Nair Tiknizyan Oleksandr Petrakov Rob Page Mateo Kovacic Ivan Perisic Bruno Petkovic Nikola Vlasic Luka Ivanusec Josko Gvardiol Varazdat Haroyan Taron Voskanyan Grant-Leon Ranos Football
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