KIEV, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Croatia’s 4-1 drubbing by England in last month’s World Cup qualifier in Zagreb has left coach Slaven Bilic with little option but to go for a win in their Group Six match away to Ukraine on Saturday (1700 GMT).
The defeat, which ended Croatia’s 36-match unbeaten home run in World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, left Bilic’s side three points behind leaders England and Ukraine, who won their opening matches against Belarus and Kazakhstan.
“We have never dropped points where we shouldn’t have and we are aware there is little or no margin for error if we are to reach the World Cup finals in South Africa,” Bilic said.
“We can’t play for a draw in Kharkiv although we wouldn’t be entirely unhappy with a point.
“We want to take control of the game from the start and dominate proceedings, meaning that we might start in a different formation and bring in several new players,” he said.
Bilic, strongly criticised by Croatian media after the England debacle, will be tempted to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation from his preferred 4-4-2 which looked predictable and uncreative against Fabio Capello’s outfit.
Ivica Olic should start on his own up front with Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Darijo Srna, who plays for Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, behind him.
Dynamo Kiev’s Ognjen Vukojevic is likely to join captain Niko Kovac as protection for the back four while either Dario Knezevic or Ivica Krizanac will replace suspended central defender Robert Kovac.
Bilic also faces a dilemma whether to stick with out-of-form first choice goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa or bring in 32-year-old Vedran Runje, who has been used mainly in friendly matches.
“We still have a few days to make a decision and either way it will be the right one because they are both top quality goalkeepers,” Bilic said.
“Both sides will be under pressure and we know only too well what it’s like because we had to deal with it throughout Euro 2008 qualifying.”
Ukraine coach Olexiy Mikhaylychenko will miss injured striker Artem Milevsky and is also in two minds whether to play Andriy Pyatov or uncapped Stanislav Bogush in goal.
He will be boosted by the improving form of strikers Andriy Shevchenko and his namesake Voronin, who both scored for their new clubs last week.
Voronin got off the mark in Hertha Berlin’s 1-0 Bundesliga win at Bayer Leverkusen while Shevchenko netted in AC Milan’s 1-0 UEFA Cup win at Swiss rivals FC Zurich.
Ukraine: Andriy Pyatov; Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Dmytro Chyhrynsky, Taras Mykhalyk, Hryhoriy Yarmash; Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Serhiy Nazarenko, Evgen Levchenko, Olexandr Aliev; Andriy Voronin, Andriy Shevchenko
Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Danijel Pranjic, Dario Knezevic, Josip Simunic, Vedran Corluka; Darijo Srna, Niko Kovac, Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic; Ivica Olic, Mladen Petric. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade, editing by Rex Gowar)