World Cup runners up Croatia welcome Ryan Giggs’s young Wales side to Osijek for this Euro 2020 qualifier. Croatia have made a bit of a meal of their campaign so far with a far from convincing victory over Azerbaijan in their first game, followed by a loss away to Hungary in their second match. Wales on the other hand have only played one match due to the odd number of teams in the group, meaning their first game-week was a bye-week. The Welsh youngsters were able to get a convincing and crucial victory over Slovakia 1-0 in Cardiff, really kick starting their campaign.
Osijek has been a fortress for the Croatians as they’ve never lost a qualifier when playing in the Stadion Gradski. Which at only 19,000 capacity may seem no big advantage, but it’s the hostile environment created by the home fans which makes it such a tough place to visit. Another defining factor will be the weather, with temperatures expected to reach 30 degrees on Saturday afternoon.
Wales will be buoyed by the current form that the Croatians find themselves in, but their home form in Euro qualifiers is very impressive, not losing on home soil since the beginning of 1994. Wales will definitely be seeing this as a slim chance of really cementing their chances of qualification, as I said following on from their impressive victory over 3rd seeded Slovakia.
Wales have faced Croatia on four occasions, losing three of those and a solitary draw. A quick look at the current rankings has Croatia 15 places ahead of Wales in fourth position, apart from their heroics in the World Cup, I personally wouldn’t have them down as the fourth best team in the world that’s for sure. The Welsh have been to Osijek once before, they’ll be hoping for a different result to the 2-0 loss in a 2010 friendly.
Wales will be buoyed by the news that Tottenham defender Ben Davies is set to play in both of Wales’s June Euro 2020 qualifier in after his scheduled hernia surgery has been delayed until July. Hot prospect Swansea City winger Daniel James, who today looks to have put pen to paper on a move to Manchester United – will be looking to continue his goalscoring form in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, after scoring the only goal last time out against Slovakia. The biggest loss for Ryan Giggs’s side is Juventus bound midfielder Aaron Ramsey won’t play any part in the match as he is still unavailable due to a hamstring injury.
Croatia on the other hand will be without many of their star players as both Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic and Frankfurt striker Ante Rebic have pulled out of the match due to injury. The formers absence means that there could be a recall for Mateo Kovacic following his success with Chelsea in the Europa League last month. The only long-term injury problems come in the form of experience full-backs Sime Vrsaljko and Ivan Strinic both still long-term absentees.
Wales are definitely not going to be pushovers for this confidence-dented and weakened Croatia come Saturday afternoon and I fully expect Ryan Giggs’s team to make a game of it.
I think there is definite value in the Double Chance market with Wales X2 @ 2.30 and going with the attacking natures of both teams, I’d expect Both Teams to Score @ 2.25. From a goal-scorer perspective, my two picks would be Andrej Kramaric @ 2.62 & Gareth Bales @ 3.40. The Hoffenheim striker has been in good form this season and the Welsh superstar always seems to perform with the red of his country on.
Wales – Double Chance @ 2.30
Both Teams to Score @ 2.25
Andrej Kramaric to Score Anytime @ 2.62