There was a small chance both Luka Modrić and striker Ante Budimir could have been available for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between Croatia and Slovenia in Split, CroatiaWeek.com reports. However, both La Liga players have been officially ruled out with injury and will miss all three September World Cup qualifiers.
The Vatreni drew Russia 0-0 in Moscow on Wednesday before stealing a win vs. Slovakia on Saturday. A win vs. Slovenia at Poljud ensures Croatia will sit atop Group H World Cup qualifying going into October’s matches. Russia host Malta on Tuesday and should bag all three points.
Mateo Kovačić has done a good job carrying the midfield load against Russia and Slovakia in Modrić’s absence. However, this would have been a prime week for Ante Budimir to play as striker for Croatia with Andrej Kramarić looking out of sorts in the final third while Antonio Čolak was given his first cap in the Croatian shirt vs. Slovakia.
Croatia should not underestimate Slovenia, who beat them 1-0 back in March during the opening group match. Slovenia scored in the 15th minute and bunkered the rest of the match to upset Croatia in Ljubljana. In five WC qualifiers, it was the only goal Croatia has conceded so far.
Even without Modrić and Budimir, if Croatia can get a win at Poljud and earn 7 points from this week (which is their toughest stretch this qualifying campaign), consider it a HUGE success! Especially with goals not falling in.