Luka Modric out as Croatia chase direct qualification

Croatia head into tonight’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier in Malta without injured midfielder Luka Modric.

The Real Madrid star hurt his hamstring in Croatia’s 3-0 triumph over Bulgaria on Saturday and will miss the team’s final qualifying game in Ta’ Qali.

The victory in Zagreb assured Croatia of at least a play-off place in Group H but they still have a chance to clinch direct qualification to next year’s tournament in France.

Ante Cacic’s team will do so if they beat Malta and second-placed Norway fail to win at pool leaders Italy.

Croatia are two points adrift of Norway but have the advantage on head-to-head record should both teams finish level on points.

“The win against Bulgaria has kept us alive in the fight for second place but now we have to win at Malta in order to make these points count,” Cacic said. “I believe that the result from Italy will play in our favour, but we are only focused on our match.

“Other teams have struggled at Malta as well.”

The triumph over Bulgaria gave Cacic a winning start as national team coach. He took over last month following the sacking of Niko Kovac.

In Group A, anything but a defeat against Iceland in Konya will see Turkey clinch a play-off place.

Turkey have won just one of their eight encounters against Iceland but a home draw would be enough to see Fatih Terim’s side clinch third place and in the process cause Holland to miss their first Euro finals since 1984.

Turkey won 2-0 at the Czech Republic on Saturday and are third in the pool, two points clear of the Dutch, who won their game at Kazakhstan 2-1 on Friday.

Should the Turks finish level on points with Holland, Terim’s side holds a superior head-to-head record.

Iceland and the Czech Republic have earned direct qualification to France but victory in Turkey would see Iceland finish top of the pool.

Belgium square off against Israel in Brussels knowing victory will see them finish first in Group B. Marc Wilmots’ side are on a 13-match unbeaten run at home in competitive fixtures. Belgium won 4-1 at Andorra on Saturday to move two points clear of second-placed Wales and book their Euro 2016 spot.

Vincent Kompany could feature for Belgium tonight. The centre-back has missed the last five games in all competitions for Manchester City due to a calf problem but is reportedly fot again.

Wales, who host Andorra, have a better head-to-head with Belgium meaning Wilmots’ men must win their game against Israel to be assured of taking top spot in the pool.

Israel need to win and Bosnia-Herzegovina to drop points in Cyprus in order to finish third in the standings. Bosnia-Herzegovina are favourites to clinch the play-off place after beating Wales to move third. The Bosnians are one point clear of Israel and two points above tonight’s opponents Cyprus. Cyprus, who beat Bosnia 2-1 the last time the sides met, need a victory in Nicosia and for Belgium to deny Israel three points in order to make the play-offs.


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