Croatia VS Portugal Prediction
Croatia accomplished the unthinkable after making a full comeback against reigning champions Spain when in Tuesday evening Ante Cacic’s men won with 2:1 in Bordeaux, as “La Furia Roja” was unbeaten at the Euros since 2004 when exactly Portugal won against them in the group stage. Twelve years later both teams which can boast with such an achievement will meet in a direct scuffle for quarter-final position at UEFA Euro 2016 and Spaniard Carlos Velasco Carballo was appointed for referee of their 1/8 final fixture. Now that’s surely one of the most expected games in the Round of 16 and it comes with Saturday night, which makes the atmosphere even more spectacular.
Team News – Croatia
Despite the bitter taste after losing two goals lead against the Czech Republic, Croatia showed great character in its last Group D encounter and the 2:1 win over Spain was not only achievement by itself, but it also helped Croatia to win the first position. Fact that they did it without two from the most reputable names in Ante Cacic’s selection (Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic) hints for the excellent squad depth which Croatia holds. Unfortunately Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic have been marked as doubtful for the upcoming 1/8 final game since Juventus’ striker suffers from a minor muscle problem. Luka Modric was substituted during the 2-2 draw against Czech Republic and this happened when the score was still 2-0 in Croatia’s favor. However, we saw that Ante Cacic had proper aces in his hand and both replacements did great job against Spain. Marko Rog was partner of Milan Badelj in midfield, while Nikola Kalinic netted the equalizing goal for Croatia.
Thus Ante Cacic has maintained its unbeaten streak, although he was controversially appointed in the closing weeks of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, and the 62-year-old coach can boast with 8 wins and 2 draws after that. Now he’ll lead Croatia in one really serious challenge and stake is huge – position in the quarter-finals. Not without fact that everyone in the Western Balkan country believes that Croatia currently owns even bigger potential than of the squad that won the bronze medals at the 1998 World Cup in France.
Team News – Portugal
Portugal disappoints and nevertheless they’re in the knockout phase, something which reminds for some Italian efforts. However, Fernando Santos’ men can be criticized for the ineffective football, although they were engaged in the most high-scoring game at Euro 2016 so far – 3:3 draw against Hungary. Anyway, it was preceded by two other draws which were faceless and they’ll be most likely remembered with Cristiano Ronaldo’s attitude.
Everything started with the 1-1 draw against Iceland, thereafter Cristiano Ronaldo stated his criticism over the defensive approach of Iceland. It was followed by the missed penalty in the closing minutes of the goalless draw vs Austria and the thrown microphone of a journalist before the game vs Hungary. All these facts obviously had positive impact on Cristiano Ronaldo and he finally aroused applause after scoring a brace against Hungary, after assisting for the first goal of Portugal, scored by his former Manchester United teammate Nani.
After the improvement shown against Hungary and the good opportunity from being situated in the upper bracket of the UEFA Euro 2016 elimination phase, Portugal has good opportunity to explode right on time and Fernando Santos can count to his best men. Well, almost all, since Raphael Guerreiro remains doubtful after he missed the game vs Hungary due to a thigh problem. So if the summer signing of Borussia Dortmund fails to recover, the 22-year-old left-back can be once again replaced by the 32-year-old Eliseu, who had successful season in Benfica.
Other rotations are unlikely and we believe that Fernando Santos will be more cautious than in the group stage games, since we saw how strong Croatia can be and we firmly doubt that Santos will prefer the 4-3-3 formation right now. It’s more reasonably to start with four midfielders who can be used either in 4-4-2 formation or in 4-3-1-2, with João Moutinho behind both strikers.
H2H stats before the Euro 2016 1/8 final between Croatia and Portugal
That component is something which Croatia don’t want to look back at, as they not only lost all three previous meetings against “The Selecção”, but they couldn’t score a goal in all of them. Everything started with the heaviest defeat from all which was 20 years ago and its stage was UEFA Euro 1996 in England. “The City Ground” in Nottingham welcomed the Group D encounter between both nations which ended with a 3:0 victory for Portugal in a game which was the first position decider, since both teams were unbeaten in the previous two rounds.Portugal won after an early goal by the legend Luis Figo, followed by another first half goal from João Pinto and third goal scored in the final minutes – by Domingos De Oliveira. This remains the most important clash between both nations and it was followed by two more games between Croatia and Portuga. They were both friendlies and they were won by “The Navigators”: 2:0 back in 2005 and the most recent from them – 1:0 win three years ago after winning goal scored from Cristiano Ronaldo. Now all looks are once again over him and everyone in the Iberian country will be fascinated if he can repeat the same exercise, which means to continue with the fine stuff shown against Hungary.
Well, we believe that Ante Cacic lived all these emotions to losing from Portugal (as a Croat) through the years and he has a plan. It will be better for him if Luka Modric is available and this will happen if Cristiano Ronaldo’s teammate overcome its injury on time, but we saw that even without Modric in midfield Croatia can play more than decent football.
Interesting fact: “Stade Bollaert-Delelis” is lucky place for Croatian football. That was the same stadium where Croatia started its most successful football quest – the third place won at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Lens was host city of the Group H fixture between Croatia and Jamaica when on 14 June 1998 Croatia achieved their first ever World Cup victory and referee was Vítor Melo Pereira from Portugal. The 3:1 win against Jamaica came after goals by Mario Stanic, Robert Prosinecki and by the legendary striker from recent past Davor Suker, who’s currently president of the Croatian Football Federation.
Euro 2016: Croatia vs Portugal – possible squads and betting tip
After the great spirit shown against Spain and the overall quality of the efforts in Group D, Croatia was chosen for favorite of the bookmakers and that’s the first situation when Portugal isn’t the favorite after arriving in France. This may carry positives in the Portuguese squad as the pressure won’t be that much on their shoulders, like in all Group F encounters, where Portugal was certain favorite and they had to fulfill high expectations.
Croatians also know that the upcoming 1/8 game is from completely different matter and they must remember that not every time when you have delightful group stage campaign your route is set to the final, not at all. The most difficult is on the corner and Portugal won’t be the team which is expected to dominate over the whole field, not this time. They can also take the game in their half and rely to some counters which looks a great strategy when you have racers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, as well as midfielders who know how to pass the ball.
Absolutely the same goes for Croatia but with difference they use a typical target man up front and that’s either Mario Mandzukic or Nikola Kalinic.
We expect one game where both sides will be very cautious since we saw that that Euro 2016 is the event of late goals and in most occasions one goal can be decisive. This requires more defensive-minded approach and since both teams know each other quite well, we expect more tactical oriented battle between Ante Cacic and Fernando Santos, more measured moves and maybe more collisions between the players. If both teams were careful with the bookings so far, now the group phase is over and every game can be final one, although bookings are still accumulating.
We already mentioned that Spaniard Carlos Velasco Carballo was appointed for referee of this clash and we all know that Spanish referees are frequently subject of discussions. His previous appointments were in the match between Slovakia and England where he showed only two yellow cards, but the previous one was the game between Albania and Switzerland, where we saw one from the only two red cards so far – Lorik Cana was sent-off after second yellow. So total amount of bookings was calculated to seven yellow cards and one red card we had in that game.
Now we’ll stay away from regular type of betting here and considering fact that we have a Spanish referee, we’ll pick the suggested line for “Over” in card betting. Of course, referee can decide to allow more challenges and Portugal normally aren’t from the sides which are expected to receive more bookings, so generally Croatia may have bigger influence on that bet. “Over 4.5 Cards” between Croatia and Portugal. Carlos Velasco Carballo is referee who can predisposes to this type of alternative betting.
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo from Spain.
Assistant referees and fourth official: Roberto Alonso Fernández, Juan Carlos Yuste Jiménez (Spain) and Viktor Kassai (Hungary).
Venue: “Stade Bollaert-Delelis”, Lens.
Possible starting squads of Croatia and Portugal
Croatia: Danijel Subasic – Darijo Srna (c), Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic – Marko Rog, Milan Badelj – Marko Pjaca, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic – Nikola Kalinic. (4-2-3-1)
Portugal: Rui Patricio – Eliseu, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Vieirinha – Andre Gomes, William Carvalho, João Mário – João Moutinho – Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo (c). (4-3-1-2)