UEFA faced some criticism upon the launch of the Nations League but games like this one are justification alone of its existence. A weekend that would otherwise have most likely been filled with a friendly or a no-contest Euro qualifier, now includes a game between two of Europe’s top sides with a winner-takes-all scenario.
The group tilted on its axis on Thursday night when Tin Jedvaj’s last-gasp goal secured Croatia a dramatic 3-2 win over Spain. In an instant Group A4 was blown wide open and it means that literally anything can now still happen in the group: a win for England will send them through to next summer’s finals, while defeat against Croatia would see them relegated.
But the equation doesn’t end there. If England beat Croatia, Spain will drop into second place while Croatia go down, but if the Three Lions and the Croatians draw 0-0, England will finish second in the group, with Spain reaching the finals and Croatia getting relegated.
Also, a score draw or defeat for England at Wembley would see them relegated, with Spain being demoted to second place if Zlatko Dalic’s men triumph.
TOP TIP! – England to win 2-0 – +900 / Harry Kane first goalscorer – +333
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What needs to be considered though, is that Croatia have struggled to pick up from where they left off in the summer and, until this week’s heroics against Spain, they’d had a very low-key start to season 2018/19.
Their key men, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have both struggled to reach the heights of the summer and minus the retired Mario Mandžukić they have struggled for goals.
England too had struggled to replicate the form of Russia but, perhaps like Croatia, their season was ignited by a 3-2 win against Spain – their victory coming in Seville.
The Three Lions can also take encouragement from a gentler build up to Sunday’s game. While Croatia and Spain were going toe-to-toe in Zagreb, they were coasting to a relatively gentle 3-0 win over the USA, in what was effectively a Wayne Rooney testimonial.
Gareth Southgate played a canny game in the week and for most of the match employed a very youthful second string, most of whom are unlikely to feature, or at least start, on Sunday.
And, partly for that reason, we can see England winning this one. Croatia will of course be on a high after the Spain game, but it was a draining evening – both mentally and physically – and with England’s big names rested and fresh, we think this will have an impact.
TOP TIPS! – Northern Ireland to win 2-1 – +1150 / Marko Arnautovic anytime goalscorer – +160
Following Thursday’s goalless draw in Vienna, between Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Northern Irish were left stranded at the bottom of the group and so will be in League C for the next round of this competition in 2020-21.
The 0-0 draw also confirmed Bosnia-Herzegovina as group winners and therefore promoted, with Austria staying in second place.
But Northern Ireland are a proud nation who will be desperate to end on a high note, and the good news is they have a good home record against the Austrians.
Michael O’Neill’s side also played out a 0-0 draw on Thursday evening, although this game – for all its political significance – was a friendly against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin, but they were the better side and unlucky not to win.
So, following three straight defeats in this competition, we can see Northern Ireland finishing this off with a performance of energy and verve. They will de desperate to avoid a whitewash and so a narrow 2-1 win +1150 with 188bet with Austria’s Marko Arnautovic as anytime goalscorer +160 with 188bet looks a decent spread.
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