Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Prediction: Croatia vs Portugal

Verdict: Both teams to score – yes

Odds: 5/4

Bookmaker: William Hill

Croatia have recorded a memorable win over Spain in the final match of the group stage to progress into the knockouts as one of tournament’s most convincing teams. Portugal struggled throughout the competition, but with Cristiano Ronaldo back in form Fernando Santos’ men are not to be easily discarded.

Croatia

Balkan country has been one of the biggest surprises of the group stage at the 2016 European Championship finals. Hadn’t it been for a disruptive element against Czech Republic, they would have had a perfect record from three games. Still, a bizarre collapse in the closing stages of the match saw them succumb to a 2-2 draw which had them hanging on the ropes. Not many people have been giving too many chances to Ante Cacic’s men against Euro 2012 winners, but even without one of their best players Luka Modric Croatia remained a force to be reckoned with. Other players, most notably Ivan Perisic who rose up to the occasion to present himself as one of Euro 2016’s early stars. Barcelona enforcer Ivan Rakitic provided much needed support from behind which helped his team record a memorable 2-1 win over La Roja propelling them into the knockout stages as group winners. Foloowing a win over Spain Croatia’s Nikola Kalinic insists that Vatreni are one of the favourites to win the title, but there is still a long way to go until the end of the road and Croatia need to keep their feet firmly on the ground.

Team News

Ante Cacic is likely to stick with his choice with Ivan Perisic and Nikola Kalinic cementing their places in the team thanks to wonderful performances.

Real Madrid star Luka Modric still remains a doubt through his injury, together with Mario Mandzukic, though versatile midfielder could make his way back into the team.

Portugal

Fernando Santos’ men have had a frustrating campaign at the opening stages of the Euro 2016 and Cristiano Ronaldo throwing a journalist’s microphone into the pond is the best way to prove the anxiety and frustration. Draws against Iceland and Austria have put Cristiano Ronaldo under the spotlight, with Real Madrid star’s form under serious criticism. Facing a great deal of pressure, Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates entered the game against Hungary determined to prove their worth, but all they got was another frustrating affair as they have been forced to chase the lead three times in the match. Gera opened the scorings after 19 minutes, but Nani managed to level the score three minutes before the half-time whistle. Hungary got another lead through Dzsudzsak’s brace, but Cristiano Ronaldo took centre stage with a brace of his own to salvage a huge point for his team. Having avoided early elimination, the Seleccao now head into their game against Croatia with restored confidence and self-belief eager to put all public doubts to bed and step up the game when it is most needed.

Team News

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos is unlikely to make significant changes to his line-up for the upcoming match against Croatia.

Cristiano Ronaldo will once again lead the way for Portugal, while Ricardo Quaresma could be in line for a starting place. What is more, Eliseu is likely to be awarded his second start at the tournament after a fine display against Hungary.

Key Factors To Consider

  • Croatia are unbeaten in their last ten games in all competitions
  • Cacic’s men defeated Spain which was La Roja’s first Euro loss since 2004
  • Portugal notched up 3 straight draws at Euro 2016
  • Ronaldo is the 1st player to score in 4 Euros
  • Portugal’s captain holds a record of 17 final appearances in the competition

Conclusion

Croatia are playing in excellent form at the moment and must be taken quite seriously in this competition. Even without their key man Luka Modric, Vatreni are still highly dangerous with plenty of players capable of winning a game. Portugal managed to restore some of their lost confidence with a 3-3 draw versus Hungary and Cristiano Ronaldo will be highly motivated to keep his team in the competition. A highly exciting game is expected.

Verdict: Both teams to score – yes

Odds: 5/4

Bookmaker: William Hill

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