Wales - Croatia predictions and free betting tips [15/10/2023]
15 October, in the context of the Euro 2024 qualifiers, the Welsh team will face off against the national team of Croatia. For Wales to enter the top two, they must win each of the three remaining matches, whereas the 'Checkered' team, despite a mid-week defeat, remains the favourite in the fight for a Euro pass.
Predicted Line Up
Wales: Ward; Mepham, Rodon, Davis; Roberts, James, Ampadu, N. Williams; Wilson, James; Moore.
Croatia: Livaković; Stanišić, Šutalo, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modrić, Brozović, Kovačić; Vlašić, Petković, Brekalo.
The match will take place in Cardiff at the eponymous stadium.
Being a semi-finalist of Euro 2016, the quarter-finalist of the previous continental championship, and the participant of the group stage at the recent Qatar World Cup, Wales risks missing the upcoming Euro. After five rounds, Rob Page's team sits at the fourth place in the standings, sharing the same points as Armenia and trailing by three points behind Croatia in the second position. In June, the Welsh lost to Armenia (2:4) and Turkey (2:0), then won against Latvia on their home ground (0:2). Ahead of the coming match, the 'Dragons' triumphed over Gibraltar in a friendly match (4:0) last Wednesday. After Croatia lost to Turkey at home on Thursday, the 'Tricolours' still hold chances to join the top two of Group D. However, they have their work cut out for them, needing to win this weekend, then defeat Armenia and Turkey next month.
Regardless, even if Wales fails to secure the second position, they can still reach the final stage of the tournament next summer via the Nation's League playoffs in March. Key players such as Gareth Bale (41 goals in 111 matches), Joe Allen (74 matches), and Johnny Williams (32 matches) have ended their careers after the World Cup in Qatar. Additionally, the team will miss out on their captain Aaron Ramsey (21 goals in 84 performances), who is absent from the squad. Talented players Brennan Johnson (Tottenham, 2 goals in 22 appearances) and Matondo (Rangers, 11 caps), who featured in September, were also not called up. The likes of Daniel James (Leeds, 47 matches), Kieffer Moore (Bournemouth), and Harry Wilson (Fulham, 6 goals in 49 matches) remain in action. In the defence, Davis (Tottenham), Connor Roberts (Burnley), Mepham, and Neco Williams (Nottingham Forest) are expected to start.
Finishing second in the 2018 World Cup, securing the third position in the recent Qatar tournament, and achieving the second place in the Nation’s League this June, Croatia is still seeking its maiden major tournament win. This feat would crown an impressive generation led by Golden Ball winner Luka Modrić. On Thursday evening, the 'Checkered' team suffered a surprising loss to Turkey in the contest for the top spot in the group with a 0:1 score - Barış Alper Yılmaz capitalised on Dominik Livaković's mistake. Before, in September, Zlatko Dalić's charges won both home games - against Latvia (5:0) and Armenia (0:1). In theory, even a loss on Sunday won't wreak havoc for the guests, who simply need to win the matches against Latvia and Armenia in November.
Croatia will head to Wales without injured Perišić (Tottenham, 33 goals in 129 matches), Ivanušec (Feyenoord, 16 matches), and forward Kramarić (Hoffenheim, 87 matches, 26 goals). Mislav Oršić, who has slowed down in the past year, is also out of action. Yet, Zlatko Dalić can count on Kovačić (Manchester City), Brozović (Al Nassr), Majer (Wolfsburg), Pašalić (Atalanta), and Vlašić (Torino). Up front, Ante Budimir will compete for a starting position with young Petar Musa (Benfica, 4 goals) and Petković (Dinamo Zagreb, 10 goals in 33 appearances). The defence still features the excellent Vida (102 matches) along with Manchester City centre-back Gvardiol (23 matches) and Stanišić (Bayer Leverkusen, 12 matches).
In a home match in March, Croatia failed to take all three points against Wales and ended the game at 1:1. The equaliser came in the 93rd minute thanks to Natan Broadhead.
Match prediction: Wales - Croatia
Croatia rightly holds the sixth spot in the FIFA ranking, so the experienced 'Checkered' squad is unlikely to stumble twice in a single week. Wales is in the midst of a generation change and has lost its recent leaders, namely Bale, Ramsey, and Allen. Now, the 'Dragons' will qualify for major competitions less frequently, therefore my bet is on a Croatian victory in Cardiff.
Total Score Prediction
From a tournament perspective, a draw would satisfy Croatia, while Wales lacks enough stars in the attack to breach the compact guest defence. As in the two previous fixtures, I'll dare to place a bet on the total score being less than 3.