Israel vs Croatia: Euro 2012 Group F Qualifying Preview
The first and second place countries in Group F take each other on in Ramat Gan on Saturday night. Israel and Croatia are both undefeated in the group and sit joint top on four points. Croatia have scored more goals than the Israelis, so are the current group leaders on goal difference.
Of course – the biggest story remains: Yossi Benayoun will be out of this match. Perhaps this takes the pressure off the Israeli players – who were under stress to pick up a point, or three, with Benayoun fit – but now clearly take on the “underdog” status even on their own home field in Tel Aviv. Will the players play without pressure? Free to counter-attack the Croatians and pull off an upset?
Croatia has too much quality in the attacking third for Israel and should score. Slaven Bilic’s club boasts the likes of Luka Modric, Tottenham’s classy central midfielder, and Eduardo, the former Arsenal hitman.
The last time these two teams played, in 2007, Croatia won 1-0 with Eduardo scoring. But I think this match will be more high-scoring.
I can’t see a 0-0 or a 1-0 in this one as Israel doesn’t have the defensive resources to keep Croatia out. They will try – and perhaps will be able to sustain the Croatian pressure for the first 15-30 minutes or so, but after going 1-0 down, will need to adjust the strategy to attack. Or at least to counter-attack. A draw is a great result for both teams here, but I think we’ll see a 2-1 winner.
Unfortunately, without Benayoun, I think the 1-2 scoreline could go in Croatia’s favor.
Israel’s “shot” to win or draw comes strictly through it’s superb goalkeeper Dudu Awate. If Awate plays the game of the season – as we have seen Joe Hart do (against Tottenham in the Premier League) or Matt Gilks (the Blackpool ‘keeper who miraculously kept out Newcastle), than Israel can scrape a win or draw. If Awate isn’t on his game, Croatia take the win and firm control of their Euro 2012 qualification destiny.
A draw will be a perfect result for …. Greece.
Without Benayoun, Israel will be satisfied without losing the match.
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