Wales head east to take on Croatia on Tuesday night with spirits high having earned a dramatic late win over Celtic rivals Scotland at the weekend.
One penalty and one stunning long-range strike in the last ten minutes of the game from Tottenham winger Gareth Bale handed the Welsh their first three points of the World Cup qualifying campaign and ended a run of four consecutive defeats under manager Chris Coleman.
In the wake of his match-winning brace, Bale described the result as a “kickstart” to the Welsh campaign and it must also relieve the pressure that was growing on the team after their 6-1 mauling at the hands of Serbia in the previous game in September.
Having got off the mark against Scotland, Wales must now pick up at least one point from their visit to Croatia or they will begin to fall too far behind the rest of Group A in their pursuit of a place at the Brazil 2014.
The odds on Coleman’s side producing a result in Osijek are unfortunately very high, with 17/4 offered on a draw and a whopping 21/2 on Wales winning the game.
Croatia, on the other hand, are 13/50 in bwin’s 3-way betting market and already look the side best equipped to challenge Belgium for top spot in the group, having picked up seven points from their opening three games.
On Friday night the Croatians, like Wales, came from behind against Macedonia to record a 2-1 win with goals from Vedran Corluka and Ivan Rakitic securing the three points for Igor Stimac’s side. That win kept them second in the group and leaves them as 3/2 second favourites to finish top and qualify automatically.
The task facing Wales, who are priced at 100/1 to win the group, is clearly an uphill one against a side who have qualified for all but two of the major tournaments held since they gained independence in the early 1990s.
Having said that, there are flaws in the Croatian side that Wales are capable of exploiting and chief among them is a less than convincing defence that has managed to keep just one clean sheet in ten games this calendar year. With this in mind, the away side will surely aim to use the pace of Bale on the counter attack to grab a lead and try to hold on.
Wales are priced at 20/1 to win the game by a single goal by bwin or alternatively, you could take odds of 16/1 on Bale to reproduce his heroics of Friday night and grab another brace.
However, the fact remains that Croatia are unbeaten at home in ten qualifiers – a run stretching back to September 2008, when a Theo Walcott hat-trick helped England to a 4-1 victory.
The preference here has to be for the hosts and with Coleman’s men possibly good for a goal, a Croatia victory in a game of over 2.5 goals looks the best option at 19/20.