CROATIA face Czech Republic at Hampden Park on Friday. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) delivers his betting analysis.
Croatia vs Czech Republic | Friday 14th June, 17:00 | BBC
While everyone focuses on the big clash between England and Scotland at Wembley, the Czech Republic could book safe passage to the knockout stages with a win over Croatia.
The Czechs ruined Scotland’s return to tournament football, courtesy of two well-taken goals from talisman Patrick Schick. And they’ll be buoyed by what a poor showing they saw from Croatia.
Zlatko Dalić’s men will need to show a lot more than they did against England to take anything from this game. They’ll need to be more proactive and get influencers like Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić involved further up the pitch to create chances after having just one shot on target against the Three Lions.
After such a disjointed performance, Dalić could ring the changes and go with a more attacking set-up, which could see one of Bruno Petković or Nikola Vlašić come in for either Marcelo Brozović or Mateo Kovačić.
Interestingly, it’s just over five years to the day since these played out a 2-2 draw at Euro 2016 in Saint-Etienne after Croatia chucked away a two-goal lead. And this could be as equally entertaining.
The betting angles
After starting with a win at Hampden Park, I’m still not sure how the Czechs managed to keep a clean sheet. In large part that was down to several key saves from Tomáš Vaclík, denying Andy Robertson and Lyndon Dykes as well as stopping the blushes of his defender, Tomáš Kalas.
At the end of the day, Scotland’s expected goals of 2.3xG is up there with some of the best figures so far, they just lacked composure and quality in front of goal, something this Croatian outfit should have.
And with Zlatko Dalić’s side ideally needing to pick up three points, this could be fairly open in contrast to some of those first group games we saw.
The Croatians conceded 1.5xG in defeat to England, so there’ll be chances for the Czech side to find. They conceded 13 goals in their Nations League campaign, drew 1-1 with Armenia in a warm-up game and have the worst return for goals conceded per competitive game (1.62) since the 2018 World Cup final.
While it’s worth noting that the Czechs averaged 1.76xG per game in competitive internationals since September 2018, so there no pushovers, as we saw with the number of good chances they created in Glasgow.
So, on that basis, it makes me lean towards BTTS at even-money.
The Czech hero from Monday, Schick is 3/1 to score anytime with Unibet, but there’s something at a bigger price I’m willing to put forward.
That’s Jakub Jankto to get an assist at 8/1. It’s also with Unibet but it’s generally around 11/2 elsewhere, and there are a couple of reasons that makes me think this is slightly bulky.
The Czech wide man was on set-piece duty and with a few big men to target, like Schick and Tomáš Souček, then there’s a chance they could bully a few of these Croatians from corners and free-kicks, so hopefully, his delivery is on the money.
The other reason was that the number of times the Sampdoria player teed up Schick on Monday in general play. Schick had six shots, with five of those on target – and according to fbref.com, Jankto played him in twice. There’s enough reason from what they created against Scotland to be able to repeat that against this ageing Croatian midfield.
Going back to March’s internationals, Jankto played 208 minutes and recorded an assist in games against both Estonia and world number one side Belgium. And if you go back to the Nations League last November, he notched another assist against Slovakia.
The dynamic of this game is likely to force Croatia’s hand, which could well play into the hands of the Czechs, with Jankto getting forward down the left flank. The 8/1 looks worth a play, but it comes with the warning that he rarely sees out the full 90 – yet it hasn’t stopped him from recording three assists in his last five competitive games for his national side.