The next prestigious tournament in International Football begins with the Euro 2016 Qualifying Campaign.
Wales come into this fixture with the hope and opportunity of making their first international tournament for 58 years by winning this group in order to qualify for Euro 2016.
Led by the charismatic Gareth Bale, he will be hoping to fulfil this ambition that the great player Ryan Giggs before him could not manage to do so. Bale will also count on support from a host of talented players around him with the likes of Ramsey, Williams, Taylor, Collins, Davies, Ledley and King, who play for Premier League clubs and will be used to the pressure involved in playing in big games. So far in their qualifying campaign, Wales have won 4 and drawn 2 games to keep them top of the pile at 14; and a victory against Cyprus, could almost guarantee they get a spot in the 1st round proper.
Cyprus have had a mixed bag so far, winning 3 games and losing 3 games including against Wales in Cardiff. Cyprus have been lacklustre narrowly beating Bosnia, while getting thrashed by Belgium and losing to Israel. Wales had already showed them a solid performance by taking an early 2 goal lead in their previous encounter, and managed to hold on for the victory. The Cyprus players have been quite un-impressive with the 2 Andorra wins along with that lucky victory against Bosnia the only way they have shown to win, but have failed to turn up on the big occasions.
I expect Wales to have a huge wave of support in this game as they would like to repeat their early victory and with a lot of their players in good form heading into this fixture, I certainly have confidence to back the Welsh in this encounter.
Croatia come into this qualifying group as the leaders above established sides Italy & Norway. What has really been a cause for success has been their defensive ability where they have only leaked 3 goals in the 6 games so far. That can easily be seen with a lot of experienced heads like Srna, Corluka, Pranjic & Loveren.
As you move up front where the goals are coming from, the midfield boast a wealth of talented players who ware always in demand by the top clubs. Modric, Kovacic, Rakitic & Perisic will be the ones likely to be the 4 men int he middle with the likes of Manduzkic and Olic likely to be up front. Perisic has been the top scorer netting 4 goals while Modric and Karamic have contributed with 3 each.
Croatia gave a solid beating to Azerbaijan by beating them by a score of 6-0 at home, while also beating Norway by a score of 5-1 to case their strong performances so far. Croatia have been building over the years to be a strong outfit, and with many of their players playing in the top leagues and gaining that experience, its very easy to see why they are rising up the charts of being among the Top European football nations.
Azerbaijan currently sit 2nd bottom in their group, just winning the solitary game against Malta, while also squeezing out a 0-0 against Norway last time around. Their side is largely built of players playing in the Azerbaijan league; so the exposure to some top teams and quality teams is definitely lacking.
The Croatians will look at this as a game to boos their impressive goal difference tally which is already at +13; as an insurance policy to secure their automatic qualification as group winners; and I expect another major rout to happen in this game against Azerbaijan in Baku.