Stadion HNK Rijeka - Nations League
It’s hardly going to make up for their World Cup semi-final defeat, but England have the chance for a measure of revenge against Croatia. The Three Lions head to the Stadion HNK Rijeka on Friday night, with both teams looking for their first Nations League point.
Mario Mandzukic’s extra-time winner put Croatia into the World Cup final in July, after Ivan Rakitic had cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick. The two games before that were big wins for England, who won 4-1 away and 5-1 at home against Croatia in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
Luka Modric captains a Croatian side that also looks set to include Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic in midfield. There’s no Mandzukic after his retirement from the international setup, but Perisic will be a threat once again.
Gareth Southgate has called up a trio of exciting youngsters for the first time. James Maddison has taken the Premier League by storm after a summer move to Leicester. while Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount have been impressing for Borussia Dortmund and Derby County respectively.
Croatia v England Preview and Predictions
Croatia brought a shuddering end to a wave of optimism that swept across England over the summer. The Three Lions will be desperate for a result here, but their World Cup conquerers have some exceptional players in their midst.
Having said that, Croatia were taught a lesson by Spain in their most recent fixture. La Roja put six goals past the Blazers in their opening Nations League match, despite Zlatko Dalic putting out a strong team in Elche last month. That comprehensive defeat should give England hope that Croatia are struggling to hit the levels they reached in Russia.
It’s certainly convinced the bookies that this game is set to be a close one. Croatia are only slight favourites at 17/10, while the visitors are priced at 19/10. With the draw at 11/5, it’s a tough one to call, and the stalemate could be the way to go.
Gareth Southgate will look for a performance that vindicates his new four-year contract, and points his team in the direction they want to move ahead of Euro 2020. With plenty of young talent in the squad, it will be interesting to see if the England boss goes with a youthful, attacking side to combat the hosts’ experience.
Score draw at 15/4
This bet would’ve paid out in the last meeting between the teams in the summer, with the score locked at 1-1 after normal time.
Perisic to score anytime at 5/2
The Inter Milan forward got the equaliser against England at the World Cup, and followed it up with a goal in the final against France.