Croatia vs Nigeria World Cup 2018
Nigeria and Croatia will both enter this match knowing that a win would go a long way to securing their passage to the second round. With Argentina the likely frontrunners and first-timers Iceland their only other opponents, this becomes both side’s most crucial fixture, and it’s no easy task splitting the teams, particularly as they have never encountered each other.
Nigeria were clinical throughout qualifying despite being placed in a strong group containing 2012 African champions Zambia, four-time World Cup participants Algeria and seven-time World Cup participants Cameroon. Nigeria didn’t lose a single match throughout the process, and still managed to qualify with a game to spare despite being stripped of three points for fielding an ineligible player against Algeria.
Croatia were by contrast fairly average throughout their qualification campaign, which is not a new phenomenon. As has been the case previously, the Balkan nation’s results deteriorated throughout the campaign, before Zlatko Dalic was brought in to steady the ship as new manager. They looked like a totally different team when they blitzed Greece in their play-off encounter.
Nigeria will certainly test the Croatians, not least because they are arguably the best African nation at the tournament, and also because they play under German manager Gernot Rohr. The former defender utilises a back five and counter-attacking style of play, which will contrast the Croatian’s love of possession.
Dalic’s tactics are still somewhat of a mystery considering he has only led the Europeans in a handful of matches. You would think that any side with Luka Modric pulling the strings would prefer a game that focusses on passing, and the pre-tournament friendlies may reveal some of the boss’s cards.
Croatia start this match as the clear favourite, which is understandable considering the wealth of talent at their disposal, although Nigeria have an established manager at the helm and a number of top-class players themselves. Both teams have been inconsistent in the build up, and we’re therefore more inclined to see this one remain level at full-time.
The Croatians enter the match at -163 frontrunners, while Nigeria start at +470. The draw is available at +278 and that is our preferred option. We believe Nigeria can keep a clean sheet here and frustrate the Croatians despite the creative prowess of Modric and co. Our prediction: 0-0.
Croatia vs Nigeria Preview
Until their 4-1 victory in the play-off match against Greece, Croatia really didn’t look threatening in the offensive third during qualifying. Their defence was almost impregnable, yet they managed just fifteen goals in their initial ten matches, and seven of those came against lowly Kosovo.
If Croatia are to break through the defences of the Super Eagles, the goal scorer is most likely going to be Mario Mandzukic, who currently leads the line for Juventus. He already has 30 goals for the national team and will be looking to add more in this campaign. He will be among the players at the shortest odds to be the first goal-scorer, although you should still get plenty of value.
Nigeria utilise Alex Iwobi up front to round off their counter-attacks, and he is the best option in the goal-scoring markets for the Nigerians. But again, this is a side that will focus heavily on defence, especially against what is a mostly unknown opponent.
We recommend looking into the final lineups of the sides before placing any player-related bets; this is also useful in determining the exact tactics that are likely to be utilised.
Head to Head Alternatives
While Croatia are the favourites, they still offer a reasonable return on investment which means you will likely be satisfied with the winnings from a successful wager regardless of who you select. On the other hand, there are several other options available to savvy punters.
The first and most obvious alternative market to bet on is the over/under line. We’ve already outlined the reasons why we believe this match will feature few goals, and this presents an opportunity to profit. This line is normally set at +2.5 for all matches, and is paying -156 for the unders.
If that’s not enough of a gamble for you, you can combine the match result with the over/under line to really accelerate your potential return. Picking Croatia and under +2.5 will allow you to receive odds of +214, a huge jump up from their -163 head to head odds. The draw and under +2.5 will fetch you +282, which again is a considerable amount that covers the 0-0 and 1-1 draws.
Speaking of the scoreline, if you really want to get creative you can certainly pick the correct score. The odds in this market will often give you a clue as to what the sportsbooks believe the outcome of the match will be. Croatia 1-0 is the favourite at +478, while the 1-1 draw is not far behind at +490.
Our scoreless draw pick comes in at +679, although strangely you can also get +758 for what is essentially the same bet. If you look at the ‘which teams will score?’ line, you will see that the ‘none’ option offers +758. Again, if you think that either side will win and keep a clean sheet, this is the line for you – Croatia are at +140 to win to nil, while Nigeria are +721.
Group D Betting Odds