Many scenarios exist for Monday’s final two Group C matches. With Ireland already eliminated from competition, it leaves Spain, Croatia, and Italy all vying for just two positions into the quarter-finals. Assuming Italy disposes of the Irish, the soccer world turns to the pivotal Spain and Croatia clash. Entering the fixture, there’s been talk of both teams setting up a 2-2 draw as the final result, ensuring the qualification of both sides, while leaving the Italians on the outside looking in. However, with the huge focus on eradicating those types of performances of late, don’t expect any suspicious play to arise between Spain and Croatia.
Spain is a proud soccer nation, and will be squarely focused on obtaining first place in Group C in order to avoid a likely clash with France in the quarters. Croatia meanwhile figure a draw suits them well against a tough Spanish side, but with the next tiebreaker being goals scored, expect coach Slaven Bilic to adopt an attacking line-up and test a Spanish back-line that’s mostly coasted in the early stages of this tournament.
Spain vs Croatia Betting Odds:
Spain (-130) / Draw (+205) / Croatia (+675)
Over 2.5 (-125) / Under 2.5 (+105)
Match Analysis & Pick:
Assuming Italy cruises past a brutal Irish team, it places heavy emphasis on Croatia to net a positive result, or one greater than a 2-2 draw. However, for the conspiracy theorists out there predicting that a pact has already been ensured to guarantee such a result, players from both teams angrily dismissed that notion before this match. Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez has gone out of his way to suggest this will not occur, stating that Spain’s style is to attack and drawing teams are never in the game plan for his side.
Moreover, given the disastrous collapse of a favoured Russian side in Group A, Spain has seen that as a wake-up call of sorts, and will work hard to ensure a similar fate isn’t in store for their squad. Through two matches, Spain has looked solid, but overpowering the Irish isn’t anything special and Vicente del Bosque’s side will be seeking a return to form in anticipation of harder opponents in the next round.
Meanwhile, Croatia have done what has been expected of them thus far. They fought back admirably against the Italians and will look to press forward against Spain. Midfielder Luka Modric has had a quiet tournament thus far, and if Croatia are to advance, they’ll need the Tottenham star to compete well against a potent Spanish midfield. Coach Slaven Bilic has stated that he’ll get his side to play as much with the ball as possible, while attempting to play in similar fashion to how the Italians dealt with Spain.
Spain’s players have told fans and the media to expect a very open match, with both sides going for goals. However, Spain will definitely be fine with a draw in this fixture as it virtually assures them first place in the group off of their superior goals-for record. Beating Ireland 4-0 will pay dividends for the Spaniards and they’ll be content with some sort of draw against the Croatians. Croatia has heralded this as the “game of their lives” and should possess enough quality to keep the ball from Spain and generate some chances, testing their back-line. Mario Mandzukic has been prolific up front for the Croatians, and if Spain treat Croatia as merely another game against Ireland, they may be in for a rude awakening.
The value in this match rests with the draw. It suits both sides, and though Spain possesses much higher quality than their Croatian opponents, look for Bilic to have his squad highly motivated and dangerous with the ball. While a draw would be a suspicious score-line given the Italian involvement, it wouldn’t be a surprising result at all given what is at stake. A tie would certainly be tough for the Italians to handle, especially if they can’t muster enough offense against an Irish side only playing for pride, this is typically the way the final matches of the group stage work out. Look for an even-played match, filled with low risks once both teams are content with their respective results.