Latvia - Croatia predictions and free betting tips [18/11/2023]
On Saturday, 18th of November, within the frames of the 9th round of Euro-2024 qualifying tournament, Latvia's squad will be crossing swords with the national team of Croatia. In October, the "checkers" stumbled twice and lost chances for the first place in the group, whereas the hosts have finally gained their first victory and will try to fortify their success.
Latvia: Ozols; Savalniexs, Balodis, Dubra, Sorokins; Tobers, Savaleevs; Jaunzems, J. Ikaunieks, Daskevics; Uldrikis.
Croatia: Livakovic; Stanisic, Sutalo, Vida, Gvardiol; Modric, Brozovic, Majer; Pasalic, Kramaric, Ivanusec.
The match will take place in Riga at the Skonto Stadium.
Having failed to conduct a worthy qualifying campaign in Group D, the Latvia squad will not participate in the upcoming Euro-2024 in June next year, and thus, will be observing the progress of the tournament from the home ground for the fifth time in a row. The hosts accrued just 3 points in 7 rounds, exclusively due to the victory over Armenia (2:0) last month. However, a few days later, the Baltics descended back onto the ground with a heavy defeat in Turkey with a score of 4:0. The maroon-whites participated in their only major tournament almost 20 years ago in Portugal, so the fans got used to the failures. On upcoming Tuesday, the Latvians will conclude their 2023 with a friendly match against Poland, after which the coaching staff will be able to plan participation in the friendly Baltic Cup.
The Latvian squad is quite weak, and many of the selected players are representatives of not too popular local league teams. However, some players managed to get a place in Western European teams, notably, forward Krollis (Spezia, 3 goals in 32 matches) and, primarily, Uldrikis (Cambuur, 7 goals in 43 matches), as well as the experienced Ikaunieks (RDS, 13 goals in 52 matches). Left-back Raivis Jurkovskis and Kriss Karklins returned to the host's list, with the latter returning after more than a year's break from the national team, whereas forward Vladislavs Gutkovskis from South Korea is still unavailable due to knee injury. Eduards Emsis must serve a suspension due to his dismissal in the last round against Turkey.
Despite taking 3rd place at the 2018 World Cup, Croatia hasn't yet secured its qualification to Germany. On the contrary, at the start of the final qualifying round, Zlatko Dalic's wards are seated in the 3rd place in Group D, having the same number of points accrued as Wales, who are seated above. Although the "checkers" conducted a fine September training, winning some easy victories over Latvia (5:0) and Armenia (0:1), they completely botched the last two matches – with Turkey (0:1) and Wales (2:1). Hence, preceding two final rounds, the visitors have ended up in quite a precarious position. In June this year, Croatians took 2nd place in the Final 4 League of Nations, conceding to Spain in penalty shootout. However, the tricolours have a contingency plan to get to the Euro – they have already obtained a spot in the League of Nations playoffs.
Following their visit to Riga, Croatians will host Armenia next week, and stumbling in both matches is simply impermissible. A number of key players from the Balkan squad will be absent: midfielder Kovacic (Manchester City), forwards Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb, 10 goals in 34 matches), Livaja (Hajduk Split, 4 goals in 21 matches) and especially Perisic (Tottenham, 33 goals in 129 matches) are out of the list. However, captain Modric (Real Madrid, 170 matches, 24 goals), Vida (AEK Athens, 103 matches), Juranovic (Union Berlin), Gvardiol (Manchester City) and Stanisic (Bayer Leverkusen), midfielders Brozovic (Al-Nassr, 91 matches), Pasalic (Atalanta, 58 matches, 10 goals), Vlasic (Torino, 53 matches, 7 goals) and Majer (Wolfsburg, 25 matches, 4 goals) and finally forward Kramaric (Hoffenheim, 26 goals in 87 matches) have made it into the squad.
In the first round, Croatians thrashed Latvians on their pitch with a score of 5:0, with Bruno Petkovic distinguishing himself twice. In all four prior head-to-head meetings, it was precisely the "checkers" that triumphed.
Prediction for the Latvia – Croatia match
Croatia will do everything possible to retain chances for finishing second in this group, and thus, a stumble in Riga can't be allowed. The difference in class between the guests and the Baltics is quite significant, as is their tournament motivation. My prediction is the victory of the favourites with a handicap of -2.