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    Playoff Shoot-out in Group I

    10 October 2017 | WC Qualification UEFA | Preview
    Playoff Shoot-out in Group I

    UEFA World Cup Qualifying Group I had the makings of being one of the closet groups of the whole qualifying campaign and that’s exactly how it has turned out.

    With Iceland, who performed so well at the 2016 European Championship, Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey, it was always going to be two teams from a possible four.  Croatia started the group as favourites and remained that way going into the final two fixtures.

    However, a poor 1-1 draw at home with Finland, who have already been eliminated, saw Iceland move 2 points clear at the top of the group, with one match remaining.  Croatia sit second on 17 points, level with their upcoming opponents, Ukraine.

    Iceland play Kosovo at home and will surely get the win they need to top the group and seal their place in Russia.  That means the winner of this match between Croatia and Ukraine, will clinch second and a place in the playoffs.

    Trends show Ukraine have won three of their last four games in Group I, with their only defeat in that run coming in Iceland.

    Ukraine have defeated Finland and Kosovo away, the two weakest teams in this group and picked up a good 2-0 win over Turkey at home.  It’s been their home form which has been most impressive and since Ukraine were held to a 1-1 draw in their first home match of the group, they have defeated Kosovo, Finland and Turkey.

    Ukraine have lost only one of their last nine competitive home games, which was a 1-0 defeat to Spain back in 2015.

    Croatia travel to the Olympic Stadium in Kiev knowing they need to win this match to guarantee themselves a place in the playoffs.  However, they must recover from what was a very poor result at home against Finland.

    The 1-1 draw means Croatia have gone from being in control of the group and having their destiny in their own hands in terms of finishing top, to wondering if they will even reach the playoff stage.

    Croatia started the campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Turkey, which was not ideal but trends show they went on a four-game winning streak in the group which saw them defeat Kosovo and Finland away and Iceland and Ukraine at home.

    However, since the home victory over Ukraine, Croatia have struggled and they have picked up only 4 points from the last possible 12 available.  Their only win was 1-0 at home against Kosovo and in addition to the dropped points against Finland, Croatia lost in Iceland and Turkey.

    Looking ahead to the team news and Ukraine will be missing Artem Kravets and Ivan Ordets due to suspension.  Expect to see Yevhen Konoplyanka and the group’s top goal scorer, Andriy Yarmolenko, feature heavily in attack.

    Croatia may look at making a few changes following their draw at home with Finland and both Marko Rog and Mario Pasalic could come into the starting XI for this game.

    Ukraine have been good at home defensively and Croatia have struggled to find the back of the net in recent away games.  Croatia must lift their game from Friday and if they fail to do so, Ukraine will take maximum points but only by a narrow margin of perhaps a single goal.

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