Croatia will be aiming to follow up their highly impressive World Cup Finals performance with a victory as they host Wales at the Stadion Poljud on Saturday evening in Group D of the Euro 2024 qualifiers.
The home nation are playing their first competitive game since they picked up third place in the 2022 Qatar World Cup, where they put on some scintillating performances. Most notably, Croatia recorded a historic victory over Brazil in the quarter-final stage of the competition thanks to a 117th-minute equaliser.
Since their admission into UEFA in 1993, Croatian football has not been in a more prosperous place in world football than it is at the moment in time and they are currently ranked 7th in Fifa’s rankings despite the small population of less than 4 million.
A period of rebuilding begins for Wales and Rob Page following their disappointing World Cup finals display and the retirement of key stalwarts; Joe Allen, Gareth Bale and Chris Gunter. In particular, the loss of Wales’ top scorer Bale (41) will leave a particularly big dent in the Wales side.
Latest year, five of Wales’ eleven goals came from Bale despite his inconsistent form for his club sides. The captaincy has been passed onto Aaron Ramsey and Rob Page will be relying on youth to fill the void in his side.
Nottingham Forest striker, Brennan Johnson will be a key player for Wales during this international break. Johnson is in the midst of a highly impressive run of form in the Premier League which has seen the Welshman record seven league goals, recently netting a valuable brace against Everton in Forest’s bid for survival.
Croatia have dominated this fixture in its relatively short history and are undefeated in all six meetings of the nations. Since the first meeting of the sides in 2002, Croatia have won four games and there have been two draws, however this is often a tight matchup as each game has been decided by two goals or less.
These sides last met in October 2019 in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign where Gareth Bale's excellent equaliser helped Wales earn a point in a bad-tempered contest in Cardiff.
The ex Real Madrid forward's composed finish in injury time in the first half ensured Wales earned a point. The Wales goal cancelled out Nikola Vlasic's opener on nine minutes as the former Everton man found the net with a shot that hit the inside of the post.
After their highly impressive World Cup campaign, Croatia are heavily favoured at the bookies ahead of this matchup @ 4/7, whilst a historic win for Wales is currently priced @ 21/4. These sides were drawn in Group D alongside Armenia, Turkey, and Latvia.
Zlatco Dalić and his side will be aiming to top their qualifying group with relative ease and are the runaway favourites to top the group @ ⅚ whilst Wales are currently priced @ 10/11 to finish in the top two and therefore secure passage into the Euro finals in 2024.