Belarus vs. Croatia Preview and Pick

Belarus vs. Croatia - World Cup Qualifying 4:15 PM ET Wednesday August 12, 2009

by Jason Green of Predictem.com

On Wednesday night at Dinamo Stadium in Minsk, Belarus hosts Croatia in a vital World Cup qualifying game for both teams.

Belarus has never played in the World Cup and they can really improve their chances of making it this year if they win this match, but if they lose their Cup hopes will be dashed.

Even though Belarus is in 3rd place in Group 6, they only trail 2nd place Croatia and Ukraine by 2 points. If Belarus can win this match they will take over 2nd place in the group.

Belarus has a tough 3 game stretch, as in their next 2 qualifying games they play at Croatia and host Ukraine.

Croatia is in 2nd place in Group 6, but this match is vital to them.

Croatia is currently tied with Ukraine with 11 points in Group 6, but the schedule favors Ukraine so they “pretty much” have to win this match.

Croatia plays Belarus in this match and then hosts Belarus, plays at England, and plays Kazakhstan away, while Ukraine hosts a weak Andorra club, plays at Belarus, hosts England and plays at Andorra.

A tie in points is a good possibility in group play, so Croatia will try to score as many goals as possible. Croatia leads Ukraine on goal differential, which is the tiebreaker, but that may change since Ukraine plays Andorra twice more.

Croatia is happy to have Arsenal striker Eduardo Da Silva back in the fold and he will be counted on for the offense. They will need him, as Belarus has only given up 7 goals in 6 games. Belarus has scored twice as many goals as they have scored (14-7) and they have scored 10 goals in their last 2 qualifying games.

Croatia is the away favorite in this match posted at 1.75 with Belarus posted at 4.30 with a draw at 3.40.

Belarus Recent Form:

6/6/2009 Andorra 1 Belarus 5 (WC Qualifying)
4/1/2009 Belarus 5 Kazakhstan 1 (WC Qualifying)
11/19/2008 Belarus 1 Cyprus 2 (Friendly)
10/15/2008 Belarus 1 England 3 (WC Qualifying)
9/10/2008 Andorra 1 Belarus 3 (WC Qualifying)

Croatia Recent Form:

6/6/2009 Croatia 2 Ukraine 2 (WC Qualifying)
4/1/2009 Andorra 0 Croatia 2 (WC Qualifying)
11/19/2008 Romania 1 Croatia 2 (Friendly)
10/15/2008 Croatia 4 Andorra 0 (WC Qualifying)
10/11/2008 Ukraine 0 Croatia 0 (WC Qualifying)

Belarus has a full squad for this important home match and they will be led by star Aliaksandr Hleb and Aliaksandr Kulchiy, who has the 2nd most caps in the country’s history.

Croatia is also at full strength, as Mario Mandzukic recently returned from a minor injury. The biggest news for the Croatian national team is that Eduardo is back and will probably start in this match.

Vitali Kutusov is a goal-scoring machine for Belarus and the Croatian defense has to keep a man on him the whole match.

The “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” Aliaksandr Hleb will have to be at his best for Belarus to pull of the upset in this match and keep his country’s hope for the World Cup alive.

Croatia has the stronger attack and since they will be moving up all match they have to beware of the counter attack of Belarus, as that may be the host country’s only chance to find the back of the net.

Croatia’s Luka Modric began last season at Tottenhal poorly after signing a big contract, but he ended the Premier season well and if he has a good match the Croats will be tough to beat. He is in top form and if Belarus does not control him in the midfield he will wreak havoc on the Belarus defense.

Belarus needs to win this game to qualify so look for them to go all out from the first minute.

Jason’s Pick: The home field advantage for Belarus will be great, but Croatia needs to win this game, especially after they played to a draw against Ukraine in their last World Cup qualifying match. Look for Croatia to come out strong in this match, as I see them winning by a score of 2-0 or 3-1.