Croatia vs. Belgium, 2014 World Cup qualifying: Preview and TV schedule

Scott Heavey

Belgium need only a draw away in Croatia to guarantee World Cup qualification, with the hosts needing a win for any chance of avoiding the playoffs.

Belgium need only a draw away in Croatia to guarantee their qualification to next year's World Cup. As for their hosts, they need to pick up a victory against Marc Wilmot's young team if they're to stand any chance of avoiding having to go through a nervy playoff to make it to Brazil 2014.

This key game takes place on Friday, coincidentally two years to the day that Belgium last suffered a competitive defeat. That 3-1 loss away in Germany seems a long way back for a side boasting some of the most talented players around at the moment. However, they're without a few regular faces for the trip to Zagreb, with the injured Vincent Kompany and Mousa Dembélé unavailable, and Christian Benteke doubtful.

Croatia -- unlike Belgium who haven't qualified for a major international tournament since the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan -- have qualified for all bar one since the turn of the millennium. This time, though, qualification is in doubt. Fortunately they've only got one certain early absentee for this match, with veteran defender Josip Šimunić suspended after being sent off in Croatia's recent draw with Serbia.

Projected lineups

Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Ivan Strinić, Dejan Lovren, Darijo Srna, Vedran Ćorluka; Luka Modrić, Ognjen Vukojević; Ivan Rakitić, Ivica Olić, Eduardo; Mario Mandžukić

Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Nicolas Lombaerts, Jan Vertonghen, Daniel van Buyten, Toby Alderweireld; Steven Defour, Maroune Fellaini, Axel Witsel; Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Nacer Chadli

Match Date/Time: Friday, 6 p.m. local, 12 p.m. ET

Venue: Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia

TV: ESPN Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), Sportsnet (Canada)

Online: WatchESPN (U.S.)

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