Euro 2012 Qualifying Group F Preview: Georgia - Croatia, Israel - Latvia, & Malta - Greece
Greece looking to take advantage if table-topping Croatia slip-up against Georgia while Israel look to kick-start their campaign
By Vasil Kotsev
Georgia - Croatia
- Georgia are on a nine-game unbeaten run with their last loss arriving in October 2009 when they were hammered by Bulgaria 6-2 in Sofia.
- The Crusaders have conceded three goals in their last five home games, with two of them being own goals by Kakhaber Kaladze against Italy in September.
- Georgia's only win in Euro 2012 Qualifiers came against Malta on October 8 in Tbilisi courtesy of an injury-time winner by David Siradze.
- The Crusaders have drawn three of their four games so far in Group F and sit third with six points behind Greece and Croatia.
- Croatia's Niko Kranjcar is the leading goalscorer in Group F with four strikes in four games.
- The Blazers have conceded just one goal in Euro 2012 qualifiers with Etey Shechter on target for Israel in Tel Aviv.
- Croatia have won all of their away games in Group F so far, outscoring the opposition 5-1.
- The Blazers have three wins and one draw in four games, comfortably sitting on top of Group F with 10 points, two ahead of second-placed Greece.
Temuri Ketsbaia will have to do without the services of defenders Malkhaz Asatiani, who was recently released by Lokomotiv Moscow, and the injured Ucha Libzhanidze, currently playing for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Kakha Aladashvili has been drafted in to cover for the deficiencies in defence and Dinamo Tbilisi midfielder Aleksandr Koshkadze replaces Spartak Moscow's Jano Ananidze, who is out with an ankle injury.
Aside from Mario Mandzukic's omission from the squad, there are no surprises in Slaven Bilic's team. Croatia are likely to field a full-strength line-up on Saturday.
Israel - Latvia
- Israel have won just once in their last five games in a friendly against Iceland in November.
- The Blue and Whites have not qualified for a major tournament for 41 years. Their last appearance was in 1970 World Cup in Mexico where they finished last in Group 2.
- Israel captain Yossi Benayoun is the team's top goalscorer in Euro 2012 Qualifiers with three goals, all arriving in a 3-1 win over Malta.
- The Blue and Whites are fourth in the standings with a single win and a draw from four games. Luis Fernandez' men face an uphill task to qualify for Euro 2012 as they are four points off the play-off spot.
- Latvia are level on points with their opponents on Saturday, but trail on goal difference.
- Aleksandrs Starkovs' men have won three of their last sixteen games, twice emerging winners on the road.
- Latvia's all-time top-scorer Maris Verpakovskis is going to feature in Saturday's game. He has scored 28 goals in 83 games for the national team.
- Aleksandrs Starkovs' team sit second to bottom in the standings with a win and a draw in four games and a goal difference of -2.
Chelsea's Yossi Benayoun has been included in the squad, but is unlikely to feature as he is still recovering from an achilles injury. Charleroi striker Dudu Biton and Maccabi Haifa's 18-year-old left-back Taleb Tawatha have been drafted in and will be hoping to make their first appearances for the Blue and Whites.
CSKA midfielder Aleksandrs Cauņa was not included in the initial 21-man squad due to injury, but there is a chance that he will join the team later. Lechia Gdańsk's Ivans Lukjanovs is set to replace him for the game with Israel. Defender Oskars Kļava is suspended, but Deniss Kacanovs has recovered from injury and is likely to feature.
Malta - Greece
- Malta have won just once in 14 games. Curiously their last victory came in August 2009 against Group F opponents Georgia.
- John Buttigieg's men are yet to win or even draw in Euro 2012 qualifiers. They have recorded four losses from four games.
- Malta have scored just once in Group F so far through Jamie Pace. The strike came against Israel in September.
- Buttigieg's side are rock bottom in the standings with 0 points and a goal difference of -8.
- Greece have lost just once in nine games. Argentina inflicted their most recent defeat at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with Martin Demichelis and Martin Palermo getting on the scoresheet.
- Fernando Santos' men are yet to score or concede away from home in Group F. No player from the current Greece squad has scored more than once in Euro 2012 Qualifiers.
- Greece have won five of their last eight games against Malta, scoring 18 goals and conceding 4.
- The Euro 2004 winners sit second with two wins and two draws. They are two points behind leaders Croatia and will be looking to take advantage of any potential slip-up by the Blazers.
The biggest news from Greece's camp is that Panagiotis Lagos has returned to the squad for the first time in three years to cover for the injured Michalis Sifakis, Grigoris Makos and Nikos Spyropoulos .
Coach John Buttigieg is likely to field the same team which drew 0-0 against Switzerland on the 2nd September. There have been no changes to the squad since the stalemate against Ottmar Hitzfeld's team.
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Top 3 Predictions
Israel 1-0 Latvia
- 34.78 %
Israel 2-0 Latvia
- 15.22 %
Israel 1-1 Latvia
- 13.04 %
|Euro 2012 (EC)||4 Jun 2011||Latvia 1 - Israel 2|
|Euro 2012 (EC)||26 Mar 2011||Israel 2 - Latvia 1|
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||5 Sep 2009||Israel 0 - Latvia 1|
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||15 Oct 2008||Latvia 1 - Israel 1|
|15 Oct 2013||Israel 1 - Northern Ireland 1||WCQE|
|11 Oct 2013||Portugal 1 - Israel 1||WCQE|
|10 Sep 2013||Russia 3 - Israel 1||WCQE|
|7 Sep 2013||Israel 1 - Azerbaijan 1||WCQE|
|14 Aug 2013||Ukraine 2 - Israel 0||FR|
|-||Tal Ben Haim||Defender|
|-||Tal Ben Haimm||Striker|