International Friendly Preview: Croatia v Portugal
By Football News
Croatia head coach Igor Stimac will be desperate to see some improvement from his strikers when they take on Portugal on Monday.
Scotland stunned Croatia 1-0 in Zagreb on Friday to leave Stimac's side three points adrift of Belgium in UEFA's Group A of World Cup qualifying and the Croatians will hope to bounce back immediately in their friendly against Portugal in Switzerland.
Stimac may be tempted to try a new forward set-up against Portugal after his team took 19 shots against Scotland but only hit the target twice as Scottish goalkeeper Allan McGregor made the two saves required to earn a clean sheet.
Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic started up front for Croatia against Scotland but failed to get the job done and Stimac may need to try Nikica Jelavic, Nikola Kalinic or Eduardo da Silva against the Portuguese in preparation for World Cup qualifiers in September and October.
Jelavic would probably be the first option to step into Stimac's starting line-up based on reputation but the 27-year-old's international goal-scoring record of five goals in 26 matches is not brilliant, plus he only managed to score eight times in 48 games for Everton in the past season.
It may be time for Stimac to give Kalinic another run up front.
The 25-year-old Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk forward scored 10 goals in 29 matches for his Ukrainian club in the past season, while Kalinic also has five international strikes to his name from 10 less appearances than Jelavic.
At 187 centimetres, Kalinic would provide Croatia with two big targets to aim for in the penalty box if Stimac paired him with Mandzukic or he could replace the size of the Bayern Munich striker, allowing Olic to buzz around at his feet.
Croatia and Portugal have only met two times before at senior international level with the latter winning on both occasions and Stimac will be hoping to break that trend at the Stade de Geneve.
Portugal will enter Monday's friendly on the back of a crucial 1-0 win over Russia in Lisbon.
Helder Postiga volleyed home Miguel Veloso's free-kick in the ninth minute to give Portugal three points, notching his third international goal of the year and his 25th in total.
The victory took Portugal above Russia and Israel to top spot in UEFA's Group F, although Fabio Capello's Russian team have two games in hand.