Croatia vs Canada Betting Preview
The second round of group games is now upon us, and in Group F, Croatia will take on Canada at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
Both teams need to get a positive result after they failed to win on match-day one, but will either team get a priceless three points? Which is, of course, what both really want.
Croatia went into their opening game against Morocco as 2.25 favourites, which suggested that they were generally expected to get the job done. However, they were underwhelmed, and not just in one area either.
You could argue that they kept the Moroccans at bay, but for all the nice footwork and neat passing shown by their opponents, the Croats were never truly tested defensively. At the other end of the pitch, they showed quite a severe lack of creativity. They fashioned a few half chances, the biggest of which fell to the talismanic Luka Modric, who, on the stroke of half time, fired over the bar when the ball feet at his feet on the edge of the box, but there was little more to speak of in terms of clear-cut Croatian chances.
What you would say for the team that wears those famous chequered jerseys is that they rarely look troubled, and as dull as it often is, they do have a real knack for managing games and grinding out results, which is probably why Morocco rarely threatened, and it’s also probably why they are now unbeaten in seven games, only three of which they’ve conceded in.
Positives and negatives for Canada
For Canada, match-day one must’ve brought around a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, players, coaches, managers, and fans alike will have been devastated to lose. They now face an uphill battle to qualify, having left the field with zero points.
However, on the other hand, the Canadians will have been delighted with the way in which they played. They started the game with more vigour than most people expected them to, and they really did look to take the fight to Belgium. Had Alphonso Davies scored from the spot just 11 minutes into the match, they would’ve taken a fully deserved lead, and that was far from their only chance during a first half where they were not just the most proactive but the better team.
There really was lots to like about Canada’s performance. They went forward with purpose, showing a great combination of pace and power, both out wide and through the middle of the pitch. Davies, in particular, had the Belgian players hugely scared as he twisted, turned and powered his way through several challenges on several occasions. The Canucks also won the ball back in midfield, thanks in no small part to the work of FC Porto’s Stephen Eustaquio, who was something of a colossal figure in the middle for Canada.
Unfortunately, there were a few things to dislike too. When it came down to it, in big moments, Canada simply didn’t have the quality to capitalize, and it must be said that the finishing work of Herdman’s men was incredibly subpar. A team with greater final-third quality really would have made the Belgians pay the price for being too easy to break down on several occasions.
From a defensive point of view, the Canadians looked far too open also. Again, a better team than a lacklustre Belgium would’ve punished what was a very open-looking back-line on more than one occasion, that’s for sure.
What should we expect from this game?
Had the Canucks been able to force a point on match-day one, then they probably would have approached this game a bit more cautiously, but now, they don’t have much choice but to go for the win, and you’d have to feel that their best chance of emerging victorious is to really try and take the fight to the Croats.
We know what to expect from Croatia. They don’t have the youngest team, and their strengths are their experience and ability to kill with the passing quality of players like Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic.
It will be Canada to make the running, that’s for sure. The Croats will be happy to sit back and soak up pressure, or they’ll take the sting out of it with slow build-up and safe possession, much as they did for most of the game against Morocco. It’s, therefore, down to Canada to make something happen, so the question is, do they have the quality to do it?
In terms of tenacity and aggression, absolutely, they’ve also got plenty of pace, and if Davies can get running at the defenders on a regular basis, then the chances should come, but again, their lack of finishing ability is a huge concern.
Who are the key players?
Luka Modric & Mateo Kovacic
Everybody knows how influential Luka Modric is to this Croatia team. It was he who led the charge to the previous World Cup final, and virtually everything that the Croats create will, somewhere along the line, come from his incredibly clever midfield play.
Alongside Mateo Kovacic, Modric will be the one who brings the ball forward for Croatia, and it is that duo who’s likely to set Croatia on the counterattack if Canada come marauding forward as they did against Belgium.
Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David
It’s no secret how good Alphonso Davies is; after all, he plays for German giants Bayern Munich, but the wider footballing audience got to see the youngster in a more attacking light against Belgium, and boy, did he shine.
His explosive running and direct nature make Davies a nightmare to defend against, and if Canada are going to put points on the board here, then he is absolutely central to their hopes, especially in an attacking sense. His dribbling and ability with the ball can really open teams up.
Interestingly, compared to the fullbacks from the top five leagues in world football, Alphonso Davies, in the last 12 months, ranks in the top 5% for shot-creating actions per 90 minutes. He’s also in the top 4% for progressive passes per game.
As for David, well, the forward had a pretty torrid time in front of the goal against Belgium. He missed a few decent half-chances and made some other poor decisions when near the goal, though he is undoubtedly a main hope for the Canadians in terms of goals.
There’s lots of quality there with this player, and that cannot be denied. The forward has thrived in Ligue 1 playing for Lille, for whom he has scored nine league goals in 15 appearances this season. That’s on top of the 15 he notched during the previous campaign. If he can bring his domestic form to this World Cup over the next two games, then the Canucks have a chance, though he will have to find significant improvement after disappointing on match-day one, that’s for sure.
What’s the best bet for Croatia vs Canada?
My heart here wants to say that Canada can find the extra final-third quality that they need to get the job done, but my head tells me that the Croats may just have too much nous.
There can be no getting away from the fact that this Canadian side has no World Cup experience, they’ve not been together on the big stage before, and for all their endeavour and exciting play, that was very evident against Belgium.
In complete contrast, the Croats have been there and done it at this level, and they’ve done it with almost this exact team, which gives them a sizable edge in my book.
In the betting, ‘Croatia to Win & Under 3.5 Goals’ catches the eye. It probably won’t be pretty from the Croats, it usually isn’t, but they know how to get the job done when it matters most. We saw that at the last World Cup, and we’ve seen it from them recently in the UEFA Nations League when they ground out wins against the likes of Austria, Denmark and France.
Prior to landing in Qatar, the team brilliantly captained by 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric defeated their opponents in five games straight, and three of those five wins came complete with a clean sheet, while they conceded more than a single goal at no point. Less than four goals were scored in four of those games. In fact, less than four goals have been scored in nine of Croatia’s last ten.
Moreover, when Canada have come up against World-Cup-level opposition in recent times, they’ve just not been able to make the most of it going forward, and that has resulted in them being defeated by teams who just know how to get the job done. For all it was partly down to luck, Belgium secured that 1-0 win a few days ago, while Canada also lost 2-0 to Uruguay back in September. Back in March, they lost 1-0 to Costa Rica too.
All in all, another spirited effort is expected from a Canadian side that is most certainly on the rise, but this may be a tournament too soon for them. The Croats are worth betting on to deliver the low-key win that they not only need but so often get.
Betting Tips for Croatia vs Canada
Croatia to Win & Under 3.5 Goals @ 2.80
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