Surprise 2018 participants Iceland will play their third ever World Cup match against a familiar face in Croatia, a team they have faced on six prior occasions in qualification. A breakthrough first win over the Croatians at their home ground helped secure first place in their group and automatic progression at their European rivals’ expense, and they will come into this match looking for another crucial victory.
Iceland’s loss against Nigeria exposed their naivety on the big stage, although to be fair they managed a 1-1 draw with Group favourites Argentina in the first round of matches which is a great achievement. They are still alive, but will need a win against Croatia to have any hope.
Croatia have been excellent. They brushed Nigeria aside with a clinical win and then destroyed Argentina. The South Americans were blown away by Croatia’s superb midfield, and Luka Modric’s solo strike was one of the highlights of the tournament so far.
This is an intriguing matchup simply because both teams have very recent history, a rare commodity in international soccer. Each team recorded a win over the other in qualifying; both keeping a clean sheet on their home turf. On a neutral venue, the logical outcome is a draw, although Croatia boast a far more accomplished squad and should really be winning this matchup.
Context is always a factor in the third group stage matches. Croatia are home and hosed as winners of Group D and will not need to field their strongest lineup at all. After a brutal match against an unsportsmanlike Argentinian team, there is a slim possibility that they will allow Iceland to play football – If Iceland win it will potentially knock out Argentina, which is a result I’m sure the Croatians would love.
For this reason, we recommend waiting for the lineups before placing a bet here. We’re going to stick with our original pick (Croatia 1-0), although concede this match could finish in a win for Iceland.
Croatia start as favourites, paying +108, while the draw is quite low at +248. Iceland are the outsiders, although not miles out of contention at +242.