James Cormack (@jamesxyyx) previews Croatia v Wales and provides us with his best bets for Saturday’s Euro 2020 qualifier by analysing team news, potential line-ups, head-to-head, key stats and facts and more.
- 2019 Profit & Loss: +5.42pts
Croatia v Wales Betting Preview, Odds & Tips
- Date: 08/06/19
- Time: 14:00
- Venue: Stadion Gradksi
- Channel: Sky Sports
World Cup finalists, Croatia, will be looking to get their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign back on track in Osijek on Saturday as they take on a young Wales side who beat Slovakia in their first game of qualifying.
Defeat in Hungary after scraping past Azerbaijan in Croatia has left Zlatko Dalic’s men with some work to do in order to qualify for next year’s European Championships.
Currently, group E has four teams with 3 points; Slovakia, Wales, Croatia and Hungary, with Wales playing a game fewer than anybody else. With Croatia out of form, it looks like it’s going to be a real dogfight between those four nations for the two qualifying spots up for grabs.
I would say it’s exciting times for Wales fans with an influx of talented youngsters being added to recent squads. There are those that have proven themselves in the Championship; Harry Wilson, Chris Mepham (early days at Bournemouth) and Daniel James as well as those who have shone in the top-tier of English football, Bournemouth’s David Brooks being one that comes to mind, whilst the likes of Ethan Ampadu and Ben Woodburn (Liverpool) certainly have talent, but haven’t yet broken through at their respective clubs.
Adding this talent with the likes of Aaron Ramsey (out of squad due to injury) and Gareth Bale, who is Wales’ leading goal-scorer, then I think you have a really exciting squad under a young manager in Ryan Giggs.
However, a win in Croatia is a very tough ask, especially in a stadium where they’ve struggled in the past. Despite having a World Cup hangover, this Croatia squad still has bags of talent, especially in midfield and attacking areas. Even though a few vital parts from their success in Russia will be missing on Saturday, with Sime Vrsaljko, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Ante Rebic all out of the squad, they still have the likes of Ivan Perisic, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Andrej Kramaric in their ranks.
For Croatia, it’s imperative that they qualify for Euro 2020 in what might be the last major tournament for this ‘golden generation’ of Croatian football, a squad that matches the one that reached the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup in France. For, Luka Modric (33), Ivan Rakitic (31), Ivan Perisic (30) and Mario Mandzukic (33), next year’s Euro’s will certainly be their next-best chance of some silverware for their country.
Ivan Rakitić, Ante Rebić, Nikola Vlašić, Marko Rog and Filip Bradarić have all pulled out of Zlatko Dalic’s squad, meaning 22-year-old, Alen Halilovic is given another chance with the national team. Halilovic, of course, was the youngest debutant in Croatian football history when he made his debut back in 2013 at the tender age of 16.
Ryan Giggs has included four uncapped players; Ben Williams, Joe Rodon, Dylan Levitt and Kiefer Moore into his squad for Croatia and Hungary.
Ben Davies, Paul Dummett, James Chester and Aaron Ramsey are out of the squad due to injury. However, there is good news with the soon-to-be United man Daniel James returning to the squad along with Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu.
Potential Croatia Starting XI: Kalinic, Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Barisic, Modric, Kovacic, Brozovic, Kramaric, Petkovic, Perisic.
Potential Wales Starting XI: Hennessey, Roberts, Mepham, Lawrence, Taylor, Wilson, Allen, Smith, James, Brooks, Bale.
Head To Head
- All-time: Croatia-3, Draw-1, Wales-0.
Key Stats & Facts
- Wales have lost both games at the Stadion Gradski; losing 2-0 in a friendly in 2010 and 2-0 once more in a World Cup qualifier in 2012.
- Since reaching the World Cup final last summer, Croatia have won just twice out of a possible 6 games.
- So far in qualifying, they’ve beaten Azerbaijan 2-1 and lost in Hungary by the same scoreline back in March.
- Wales won their only game in qualifying so far, beating Slovakia 1-0 thanks to an early Dan James goal.
- BTTS in Croatia’s last four matches, whilst only 2 of Wales’ last 6 games have had both teams scoring.
- Croatia 8/13
- Draw 3/1
- Wales 28/5
I think that with all their injury issues, Croatia are quite short at 8/13 and although I think they’re going to win, I’m not going to back them at that price. Instead, I’m looking at Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric to get on the scoresheet on Saturday. Kramaric enjoyed a fine season in Germany, scoring 17 goals in 30 games and also has an ok record for the national side since making his debut in 2014, scoring 13 in 44 games. The absence of Mandzukic and Rebic means Kramaric may play as the 9 in Dalic’s 4-3-3 or drift out on the right, which we saw him do in Croatia’s last round of qualifiers. Nevertheless, his fine form last season has convinced me that he’s someone to keep an eye out for on Saturday.
I’m also going to back another odds-against bet and back BTTS at 11/8. Croatia games normally include goals, with their 0-0 against England back in October being an anomaly. Since the start of the World Cup, 11 out of Croatia’s 13 games have either had both teams scoring or over 2.5 goals. As for Wales, I think they’ll score in Osijek, a place where they’re yet to score. They have some fearless, talented attackers in the form of David Brooks, Dan James and Harry Wilson, as well as boasting one of the most destructive players on his day, Gareth Bale, who will also be looking to prove a point to Real Madrid and, in particular, Zinedine Zidane.