Revenge will be in the air at Wembley on Sunday as England and Croatia meet at Euro 2020 in a repeat of their World Cup semi-final at the 2018 World Cup.
On that occasion it was Croatia who were victorious, winning 2-1 after extra-time, but the eventual match-winner three years ago, Mario Mandzukic, has since retired from international football.
Dejan Lovren is expected to be out injured and others have departed the scene, including goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, and the general vibe is the World Cup runners-up are possibly on the downturn as England are on the up.
That has been played out in their two Nations League meetings since, with a 0-0 draw in Croatia followed by a 2-1 England success at Wembley.
Ageing Croats on the Way Down
At the World Cup Croatia had 56 per cent possession and forced seven shots on target to England’s two whereas in the Nations League double header the Three Lions averaged 60 per cent possession and attempted ten shots on target to Croatia’s six.
Gareth Southgate’s Group D hosts deserve to be
4/6 favourites to make a winning start with the attacking verve at his disposal among the best in the competition as the likes of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling fight for the wider spots to flank Premier League Golden Boot winner Harry Kane.
Croatia’s classy midfield of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic probably have the edge over whatever side Southgate selects, however, in both boxes the significantly superior threat of Kane tips the balance in favour of England.
Hot Weather to Play a Part
London is expected to be baking hot at kick-off for a 2pm start local time and the five substitutions allowed also suits England, who can throw on a number of game changers, unlike the Croats who don’t have anywhere near as much strength in depth.
With the conditions seemingly certain to determine this match has to be played at a slower tempo perhaps the best bet is the
21/20 offered about England winning in a game with under 3.5 goals.
Despite England set to miss Harry Maguire and question marks over their defence in general, Croatia may not be best placed to take advantage and it could be later in the tournament where Southgate’s side are exposed.
Set-Pieces to Play a Role
Maguire’s probable absence is set to be missed in the attacking third too as he was always somebody that liked to attack set-pieces, one of England’s main strengths at the World Cup.
It could be John Stones who takes advantage this time and he is worth an interest at
30/1 to score first.
Stones grabbed five goals for Manchester City this season, while another bet to consider is
7/2 about Borna Barisic being carded.
The Rangers left-back will have a tough time up against whoever is selected, most probably Foden and may lose his cool in the London heat.
*All odds correct at time of writing.