Croatia is welcoming Azerbaijan in round 1 of Euro Cup qualifications.
Croatia had an amazing World Cup in Russia last year and ended up second by playing very balanced soccer with steady defense and effective offense. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are Croatia’s best players and both of them are playing in great form for their clubs at the moment and are expected to lead Croatia once again. Coach Dalic has some problems with injured players and defensive lineup is the biggest problem with Lovren not being ready and Vida and Jedvaj questionable because of minor injuries. Offensive lineup will be led by Kramaric who is one of the top goal scorers in Bundesliga and Rebic who is one of the best players in Eintracht Frankfurt. In their last game in Nations League against England, Croatia was totally outplayed and have lost that game 2-1 despite having the lead until 78thminute. This was one of the worst games for Croatia where they had only 35% ball possession and only 4 shots on goal. Nations League wasn’t really good competition for Croatia where they scored only 4 goals and conceded 10 and ended up last in Group 4 with England and Spain. Its always hard for coaches to fix everything in only 2 weeks and these 2 or 3 games that national teams are playing but I’m sure coach Dalic will do everything to get Croatia ready for these Euro Cup qualification cycle.
Azerbaijan did really well in last year’s Nations League and ended up second in their group with 2 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss and 9 points. After Nations League, Azerbaijan sacked their coach Gurbanov and signed Croatian coach Nikola Jurcevic who was assistant coach in Croatian national team back in 2006 and assistant coach to Slaven Bilic in Besiktas and West Ham. Azerbaijan’s best players are Almeida and Medvedev who are both healthy and are expected to play in this match. This will be Azerbaijan’s first game with new coach and their opponent couldn’t be worse. In their last game against Kosovo, Azerbaijan was better team with 56% ball possession and 8 shot on goal but weren’t able to score a goal and have lost that game 4-0 which cost them first place in their group. Azerbaijan is showing steady improvement every year and are developing youth soccer in their homeland and with patients and time they will soon reach the level of teams like Bulgaria, Ukraine or Romania.
Croatia is much better team here despite the injuries and last time these two teams played in Croatia back in 2014, Croatia won 6-0. Because this is first game for Azerbaijan with their new coach its gonna take some time for chemistry to build up I’m expecting from Croatia to bounce back from latest loss and start these qualifications with an easy win.