England vs Croatia
SUN 13 JUN 2021 – KO 14:00
BETTING & MATCH PREDICTION
It’s England vs Croatia at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 13 June with kick-off scheduled for 14:00. England’s opening game of the UEFA EURO 2020(21) is a tough match against World Cup finalists Croatia.
England are the joint-favourites along with France to win the UEFA EURO Tournament. However, looking at England’s Group D opponents, I’m nowhere near as confident as the bookies.
Their first game is against World Cup Finalist Croatia; their second match will be against the old enemy (Scotland), and the final game is against the Czech Republic (who beat England recently). Qualifying for the knock-out stages won’t be straightforward; we should forget talk about winning the tournament – for now.
The key to qualification will be a good start against Croatia. On paper, this is the most challenging game for Southgate’s men. The two countries have played each other frequently over the years. The last big match between them was the World Cup Semi-Final in 2018. England lost that game 2-1 in extra time. In 2007, Croatia beat England 2-3 at Wembley to deny them a place at Euro 2008 finals.
The most recent encounter came in the UEFA Nations League (2018). England won that match 2-1 with goals from Lingard and Harry Kane. Looking at Croatia’s recent form will provide some assurance for Gareth Southgate. Their qualification for the Euro’s wasn’t spectacular. The Croats lost to Hungary and drew with Azerbaijan and Wales. Since then, Sweden and Portugal have beaten them (Nations League).
By contrast, England lost just once in qualification, a 2-1 defeat against the Czech Republic. On five occasions, England scored five goals or more. The highlight being a 7-0 win against Montenegro and a 5-0 victory over the Czech’s at Wembley. In their past eight games, England has won five, drawn one and lost two.
Now I’ve primed you with optimism; it’s time to bring you back down to earth. The Three Lions have appeared at nine European Championships, but have yet to registered a victory in their opening game! My gut feeling is that statistic won’t change. I can see a tense 1-1 draw against Croatia. If you fancy backing that result, you’ll get 11/2 with Paddy Power.
Croatia head into the tournament on the back of a decent qualification campaign. Although, they did suffer a few hiccups along the way. The Croats will have no fear of their opening game against England at Wembley. In 2008, they humiliated Steve McClaren’s team, beating England 2-3 in their own back yard.
Croatia’s best performance in a major tournament came in 2018. They reached the World Cup Final in Russia, beating England in the semi-final. Ultimately, they lost to France, but the brave side won legions of fans with their spirited performances.
The main problem facing Croatia in this tournament is their ageing squad. Luka Modric will be 35 years old, Ivan Perisic is 32 and Lovren and Vida will be pushing 32. These players have experienced heads, but that also comes with old legs.
Croatia will be looking at their next generation to step up. Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic (26) and CSKA Moscow’s Nikola Vlasic (23) are two players to watch.
The playing style used by Croatia will cause England problems. They won’t give the ball away cheaply. However, this England side has bags of pace, and it will be interesting to see whether Croatia’s older players will keep up with Rashford, Sterling and Kyle Walker. If you think Croatia can turn-over England, you can get 7/2 on them winning with Paddy Power. The draw is 5/2 and England winning is 4/5.
Squad selection and specific team news will be available closer to the tournament.