First place is still up for grabs in Group F of Euro 2012 qualifying as first-place Greece and second-place Croatia could either win the group or come in second. However, Greece is in the driver’s seat and controls its own destiny.
Greece tops the table at the moment with 21 points from six wins and three draws. Croatia is two points behind them with 19 points from six wins, a draw and two losses. The Croatians blew a huge opportunity to take control of the group when they were beaten 2-0 in Greece on Friday.
However, they have one more chance to win the group when they take on fourth-place Latvia at home on Oct. 11th. Greece will have something to say about it though as they are away to fifth-place Georgia on the same day. If both teams win, then Greece takes first place. If Greece loses and Croatia wins they’ll get the automatic pass to next summer’s European Championships. The only hope Croatia has of winning the group is if they win and Greece loses.
When Latvia and Croatia met for their first Euro 2012 qualifying meeting last year in Latvia, the Croatians beat them 3-0. In their past five matches overall, Croatia has three wins, a loss and a draw while Latvia has two wins, two losses and a draw. They beat Malta 2-0 in their last qualifier on Friday.
Daniijel Pranjic and Mladen Petric weren’t named to the Croatian squad by manager Slaven Bilic. Midfielder Ivo Ilicevic will have to undergo a fitness test, but captain Darijo Srna is back from suspension after missing the game against Greece.
For Latvia, midfielder Jurijs Zigajevs is out for close to six months due to a serious a knee injury. Manager Aleksandrs Starkovs replaced him with veteran Andrejs Rubins, who has 116 caps.
Croatia has the talent to win this match and definitely has motivation on their side. However, it’s not going to be quite so simple. They know they’ll end up in second place even if they lose this game and could still finish second if they win and Greece does too. This might subconsciously lead them to play a more relaxed game. However, if they’re too relaxed they’ll pay for it. Realistically though, they should have the guns to win this game by at least two goals.
Sportsbook William Hill has the odds of a Croatia win at 1/16 and a Latvia win at 20/1 with a draw at 8/1.
Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (FC Rostov), Danijel Subašić (HNK Hajduk Split), Ivan Kelava (GNK Dinamo Zagreb)
Defenders: Vedran Ćorluka (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Josip Šimunić (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Dejan Lovren (Olympique Lyonnais), Ivan Strinić (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt), Darijo Srna (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Šime Vrsaljko (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Domagoj Vida (GNK Dinamo Zagreb)
Midfielders: Luka Modrić (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Niko Kranjčar (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Milan Badelj (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Ognjen Vukojević (FC Dynamo Kyiv), Tomislav Dujmović (FC Dinamo Moskva), Ivan Perišić (Borussia Dortmund), Ivan Rakitić (Sevilla FC), Mato Jajalo (1. FC Köln)
Forwards: Eduardo (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Mario Mandžukić (VfL Wolfsburg), Nikola Kalinić (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Nikica Jelavić (Rangers FC), Ivan Klasnić (Bolton Wanderers FC)
Goalkeepers: Andris Vaņins (FC Sion), Pavels Doroševs (Qäbälä FK), Germans Māliņš (Skonto FC)
Defenders: Kaspars Gorkšs (Reading FC), Deniss Ivanovs (Bakı FK), Ritus Krjauklis (Olimpik-Şüvälan PVK), Oskars Kļava (FC Khimki), Pāvels Mihadjuks (SK Liepājas Metalurgs)
Midfielders: Ivans Lukjanovs (KS Lechia Gdańsk), Aleksandrs Cauņa (PFC CSKA Moskva), Aleksandrs Fertovs (Skonto FC), Aleksejs Višņakovs (MKS Cracovia Kraków), Ritvars Rugins (FK Ventspils), Oļegs Laizāns (FK Ventspils), Andrejs Rubins (Simurq PFK), Artis Lazdiņš (FK Jelgava)
Forwards: Māris Verpakovskis (Bakı FK), Artjoms Rudņevs (KKS Lech Poznań), Edgars Gauračs (FC Enisey Krasnoyarsk), Andrejs Perepļotkins (Nasaf Qarshi FC)