Kick-off: 1945, 25/03/2023
Stadium: Stadion Poljud
TV: Viaplay Sports
Wales face a tough start to their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign when visiting World Cup semi-finalists Croatia in Split.
These teams finished first and second in a group four years ago, when the Blazers won 2-1 at home before a 1-1 draw in Cardiff.
We think 23/10 for the hosts to prevail by any one-goal margin again is the way to go with our opening Croatia vs Wales prediction.
Blazers boast class and experience
Croatia have become regular challengers at major tournaments, finishing second and third at the last two World Cups.
Their record in the European Championships isn’t quite as hot, going out at the last-16 stage in 2016 and last time around.
However, qualifying campaigns have gone smoothly, especially when playing on home turf.
The Blazers rattled off four straight wins in front of their own fans on route to Euro 2020 and picked up 13 points out of 15 in their World Cup pool.
In the knockout stages of Qatar 2022, Croatia edged out Japan and Brazil on penalties before losing 3-0 to Argentina in the semis.
A 2-1 triumph over Morocco did secure the bronze medal position, though, and Zlatko Dalic remains in charge of this talented team.
The likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Mateo Kovacic, Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Vida are still going strong on the pitch, with over 550 caps between them.
Dalic’s side rarely blow opposing sides away, though, so Croatia vs Wales odds.
Dragons must rebuild without Bale
Wales are bidding to reach the finals of this tournament for the third straight time, memorably making it all the way to the semis in 2016.
A first World Cup appearance since 1958 was another notable achievement, even if they only picked up one point at Qatar 2022.
Getting relegated from the top tier of the Nations League last year was a blow, with the Dragons struggling in a pool featuring Netherlands, Belgium and Poland.
Even so, Rob Page has done a fine job since stepping in at short notice to replace Ryan Giggs and clearly has the respect of his players.
With talismanic forward Gareth Bale having hung up his boots, Aaron Ramsey is the new captain.
Chris Gunter, Joe Allen and Jonny Williams have retired from international football, but Ramsey is keen to look forward.
“We will be forever grateful for what they brought to this team, this nation, and we’ll miss those players around the place,” said the midfielder.
“But football is forever changing and there’ll be opportunities now for younger players to step up and show what they’re capable of. Hopefully, now we can create our own history.”
Wales are short of star quality but can always be relied upon to show resilience at the back and a strong work ethic.
The Dragons must beware RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol at set-pieces, though, as he has a happy knack of popping up with goals in big games.
A hot prospect being monitored by big clubs around Europe, the 21-year-old scored in the World Cup third-place play-off and has netted in Champions League games versus Real Madrid and Manchester City this season.
Let’s add a speculative punt on Gvardiol to break the deadlock here at 22/1 to our Croatia vs Wales betting tips.
CROATIA 2-1 Morocco – Josko Gvardiol, Mislav Orsic
WALES 0-3 England
Head-to-head: Wales 1-1 Croatia, Croatia 2-1 Wales, Wales 1-2 Croatia, Croatia 2-0 Wales
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