Win or bust at Wembley
Rarely does a meeting between England and Croatia not having something riding on it these days. This couldn’t be more true of Sunday’s all or nothing clash that’ll decide everything from who wins the group and reaches next year’s Nations League finals, to who suffers relegation to the second tier.
Drama always guaranteed
This fixture always seems to throw up a memorable episode of some kind. We had the eerie behind closed doors game in October, the historic World Cup semi-final in Russia this summer, a resounding 5-1 England win in World Cup 2010 qualification, a Theo Walcott hattrick in Zagreb the year before that.
Then who could forget that fateful night for Steve McClaren and his umbrella at Wembley which saw Slaven Bilic’s side consign England to watching Euro 2008 on the TV, and the performance of a teenager named Wayne Rooney in the last 16 clash of Euro 2004?
Rarely is there a dull game between these two. And with both having plenty to prove and the high stakes involved, the trend is only set to continue.
Building on success
A first ever World Cup final for Croatia and an unexpected run to the last four for the Three Lions means neither can have too much complaint with their achievements in 2018. This said, proving those respective achievements were not a flash in the pan will be important to both sets of players.
That is why I can see the two sides going hell-for leather at each other in order to advance to the latter stages of this format - the opportunity to build on success doesn’t often present itself this quick in international football but here is the chance to round off what would be an unforgettable 2018 for the victor.
Win or bust
The way Group A4 has swung this way and that has left the standings delicately poised. Spain looked as if they’d be running away with the group early on but England and Croatia have come on strong as the tournament has gone to find themselves with destiny firmly in their own hands, particularly important for Gareth Southgate and Zlatko Dalic in knowing how to set out their teams.
The answer to this though from the two managers will simply be, play to win. Many permutations are flying around but the short and fall of it is a win guarantees top spot and a finals spot, while a draw of any kind will see Spain hold on to first place.
Neither will want to leave the door open for Spain to sneak through with the focus 100% on securing the three points and the prize which comes with topping the group.
Just as in Moscow, there won’t be much between the sides but while it’s a challenge trying to lean towards a winner, I think goals are inevitable.
My tip: Over 2.5 goals of best market odds of 4/5 (1.83) with Unibet