Croatia v Spain
Wednesday 22 June, 5:00am
Two of our fancies for overall glory meet in the final group game and they’ve not let us down so far. Spain, in particular, are now the tournament favourites after two dominant performances that have firmly banished he memories of Brazil 2014.
These teams met at this stage four years ago, when Jesus Navas gave Spain a late winner. The defending champions have conceded just once in eight European Championship matches since the start of that tournament, and its just one in 11 going back to the knockout stages in 2008. Their winning streak in competitive games has also stretched to 10 – all with clean sheets – and with Alvaro Morata bagging a brace in the 3-0 win over Turkey they look very strong throughout the team.
Against teams that we have ranked below them but still in our top 25 Spain have gone W14-D6-L4 since the start of Euro 2012, with 15/24 having fewer than three goals. Furthermore, 11 of those 14 wins have come to nil and six have come after being level at half-time.
Croatia have impressed so far but an injury time equaliser from the Czech Republic means they need another point to qualify as group runners-up. However, four points should be enough to go through as a best third-place finisher in any case, even if the Czechs manage to beat Turkey.
Since the last World Cup they’ve lost just two of 20 matches, while winning 13 times and scoring 47 goals, so they should give Spain their first real threat. There won’t be too many surprises though, with star players Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic playing their club football for Spain’s Big Two and main striker, Mario Mandzukic, being a former Atletico player.
Despite their undoubted quality this Croatia side are yet to do anything at a major tournament, having been knocked out at the group stages of the past two major tournaments, and they’ve lost their last six games against teams we had ranked in our top 10. Three of the four, going back to the last Euros, were by just one-goal margins though and they are unquestionably better than that string of defeats suggests.
Extending our sample to look at Croatia’s results against top-20 ranked sides doesn’t offer a lot more hope for their fans, but they did pick up draws, home and away, against Italy in qualifying. Since 2014, they’ve gone W0-D3-L3 in these matches, with both teams scoring in all six as it is their defence that has let them down.
In the 10 final group games at World Cups or Euros since 1990, where one side was on six points and the other four, the better placed side has gone W5-D3-L2, with 8/10 having at least three goals. Those goals stats directly contradict Spain’s very strong clean sheet and ‘unders’ record and are also a relatively small sample, so we’ll avoid those markets.
At odds-against the Spain win is certainly a reasonable bet, but we’d be wary of the fact that they don’t have to win this game. Nevertheless, teams that have won their opening two games at World Cups or Euros since 1990 and are playing teams ranked 5-25 places below them have gone W14-D4-L3, so we’ll take Spain to continue Croatia’s horrid record against the top teams.
BACK – Spain Win at 2.24