Croatia vs. England Betting Preview – Expert Analysis and Free Pick
Published on October 10, 2018
There are plenty of doubts about the UEFA Nations League when it comes to the motivation of some of the top European countries. After all, a lot of the matches are technically closer to international friendlies than a truly competitive game.
There is one fixture this week that will certainly bring some emotions and the genuine desire to win, though.
Croatia will host England on Thursday, and I feel both sides will have a lot to prove. The World Cup finalists were soundly beaten by Spain in the first round, and the score of 6-0 is certainly something Croatia will want to put behind them.
At the same time, England will be eager to beat the country that ended their World Cup glory in the semifinals.
I’ve decided to take a look at the odds provided by the leading online sportsbooks and share my free betting pick and prediction for this match.
Let’s take a closer look at the main betting markets available online.
The bookies are struggling to recognize a favorite in this match, and I can easily see why. Both teams have been far from the form shown in the World Cup, but England looked better.
There are certain reasons for that, and I will talk about that later in my analysis. I think that it will be a close contest, so I can understand why the prices for all three outcomes are almost even.
I’m not so sure if the over/under goals market should be where it is right now. The line of 2.25 seems about right, but the prices for both options should be much closer, in my opinion.
Both teams are capable of scoring, and they will be looking for a victory here. This could lead to a more open game than the bookmakers expect.
But let’s go through the information we have for both teams first.
What Croatia achieved this summer in the Russia World Cup is nothing short of legendary. The squad showed soccer fans from all over the globe that the big nations are not the only ones that can reach the final of the biggest competition out there.
Croatia came back and won several of their World Cup games after going behind. This is why the opening game of the UEFA Nations Cup was so shocking.
The Croatians were demolished by a young Spanish side that has the ambitions to dominate soccer in the near future. Despite all of the talent of the Iberians, I don’t think anyone expected them to beat the World Cup finalists 6-0.
A close look at the starting lineup for this game shows that it’s not like Croatia missed a bunch of important players. Sure, Mario Mandzukic retired after the big summer triumph, but the other World Cup heroes like Rakitic, Modric, and Perisic all played.
The question is, how bad was it really, and why? I would start with the fact that Croatia actually enjoyed a decent spell at the beginning of the game. On top of that, Spain scored six goals from seven shots on target.
In a way, the scoreline is a bit deceitful. The home side was extremely efficient, while I’m not entirely sure how much Croatia cared. By the time it got ugly, the World Cup runners-up were in a position where they couldn’t do much about what was happening on the pitch.
I expect an entirely different match against England. The whole team will be eager to restore its reputation by taking a big scalp. I think we’ll see Croatia at its very best.
The midfielders of the country are exceptional when it comes to dictating the tempo, and this was one of England’s biggest issues in the World Cup semifinal.
I don’t think that the team can match Croatia in this area, so the reasonable approach would be to try and hit on the counter. The Balkan side has some issues against such a style of soccer, so I want to see what Gareth Southgate has in mind.
After having one of the best World Cup performances in the entire history of the country, England now believes in the young and hungry squad led by Gareth Southgate. Usually, I would expect the manager to experiment a bit in a game like that, and the inclusion of debutants like James Maddison, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, and a couple more is a testimony to his approach.
Despite calling so many youngsters, I still feel that Gareth Southgate would be eager to win this match and earn revenge against Croatia.
There are many questions from a tactical point of view, though. As I already mentioned, I don’t think that England can match Croatia in the middle of the park when it comes keeping the ball and dictating the tempo of the match, especially in the absence of Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard.
Instead, the visitors will have to try to defend in numbers and play a direct style that would punish any mistake by Croatia. In my opinion, this is the best way for England to win this match.
At the same time, Southgate could decide to try and outplay the opponent by sending plenty of men in the middle. This is a risky approach that could backfire, so I’m not sure that the manager will try it.
Before I actually proceed with my pick and prediction, I would like to add that the game will be played behind closed doors. This is an important detail, as it does eliminate the home advantage of Croatia, at least to an extent.
The absence of a home crowd should work in England’s favor. I’m tempted to actually back the away team, but then again, Croatia will be desperate to restore its reputation after the game against Spain. This is what makes the hosts so dangerous.
I don’t think the match result marker offers good betting opportunities. On the other hand, both teams have the means to punish the other and will be pushing for the win. This could lead to a game with a good number of goals.
I would say that something like 2-1 for either side or even a 2-2 draw could be on the cards. This is why the price of 2.06 for over 2.25 goals seems great. Not only is the price high, but you also get half of your stakes back if two goals are scored. This is my final pick, as I feel we will see some chances.
I think this match has the potential to be the most exciting one from the UEFA Nations League week two. Both teams will want the win, so I can’t wait to watch and see what happens at the end.
Do you agree with my opinion about the fixture? Make sure to share your opinion in the comments below.
Also, I don’t see any other solid bets for Friday, as the rest of the matches are hard to predict. Good luck if you decide to give any of them a shot, though.