As every week passes, more pundits are jumping on the Croatian bandwagon but all is not as rosy as it may seem for would-be Croat punters. Coach Slaven Bilic has been under intense pressure in his home country and leaves his post after the competition while midfield mystro Luka Modric appears to be suffering from fatigue. Add to that a stodgy centre-back pairing and the Croatians appear to have more flaws than potential hopes.
- Kept six clean sheets in their 10 qualification games, and averaged 1.8 goals per game – however, a third of their tally came from two games against whipping-boys Malta.
- Twelve different players scored for the Croats in the qualifying campaign.
- They’ve played in the competition three times and have never lost their opening match – that sequence includes two 1-0 wins and a 0-0 draw.
Everton: Croatia possess battle-hardenered players alongside a smattering of technical geniuses. Have plenty of potential to bloody the nose of more fancied opponents but may fall just short of that magic ingredient.
Any Other Business
Croatia enjoy a counter-attacking game and Bilic is likely to overhaul the system in the hope of taking maximum points from the opening fixture, potentially exposing ponderous centre-back pairing.
With injury robbing the Croats of Ivica Olic, Everton’s Nikica Jelavic is now in pole position to lead the Croatian attack. After a splendid six months in the Premier League, Nikica Jealvic to finish as the Croatians top goalscorer, at 9/2 with Paddy Power looks a justified and value favourite in the market.