Top seeds Croatia welcome Wales to Gradski Vrt for what on paper looks to be the away team’s toughest challenge in Euro 2020 Qualifying Group E. The Croats are top seeds, and are favourites with the bookies to top the group and seal qualification for Euro 2020 without the need for a play-off. Ryan Giggs and his Welsh team will take some comfort from the Croats’ last result, though, which was a 2-1 defeat away at Hungary, who are certainly not a team with a strong record over the last few years.
Croatia are very strong at home, though. They have never lost a European Championship qualifier at home since they started playing as an independent country back in 1994. They are also 23 games unbeaten in all competitions at home currently. Giggs and his men have a challenge in front of them.
Croatia vs Wales Prediction: Croatia 2-0 Wales
Our prediction for this game is that the home side will win it in pretty convincing style, especially given that Wales will be missing key man Aaron Ramsey from their midfield. Croatia have their own injury concerns, too, though, with Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic and Frankfurt striker Ante Rebic both withdrawing this week. They still have attacking threats like Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic, though, and that kind of quality should prove too much for Wales on Saturday afternoon. Croatia also have an excellent record at the Stadion Gradski in Osiek, where they are unbeaten in 11 matches.
Our recommended tip: Croatia 2-0
Temperatures are expected to be close to 30 degrees Celsius in Osiek on Saturday, and that is another reason that we expect Croatia to emerge as comfortable winners from the game. Our featured tip for this match comes from Betway, who are offering odds of 5/1 on our prediction of a 2-0 win for the home side turning out to be accurate. Given Croatia’s strength, both relative to a Wales team full of journeyman players from the lower leagues of the British game, and at home, we suspect that 2-0 is a very likely final scoreline for this game.
These two sides have played each other on four previous occasions, with Wales never having won. Croatia have won three of the games and the other has been a draw. The first two matches in the sequence were friendly internationals, the first of which was played in Varazdin in August 2002 and ended 1-1. The second game was played in Osiek, and ended in a 2-0 win for the Croats. The teams played twice during qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, with Croatia winning both games. They won the first game in Osiek 2-0, before triumphing 2-1 in Swansea.
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Players to watch: Luka Modric & Daniel James
When it comes to Croatia, the player who immediately springs to mind is Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric. The diminutive playmaker is a key cog in the Croatian midfield, which he helps to keep moving with his perceptive passing and ability to retain possession. On what is expected to be a hit day in Osiek, Modric will be trying to tire out the Welsh players with his passing game, making them run in the heat.
Daniel James is currently on the verge of a move from Swansea City to Manchester United, but Ryan Giggs insists that the winger is taking it all in his stride. James was born in Beverley in East Yorkshire, but qualifies for Wales through his Aberdare-born father. A tricky winger who usually operates on the right flank, James will want to show any Manchester United fans watching the game just what he can do.