Portugal vs Croatia
Reigning European champions Portugal were unable to defend their crown at Euro 2020 this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Cristiano Ronaldo and co. will begin the defence of their other title, the UEFA Nations League, as they take on Croatia at the Estadio do Dragao.
Ronaldo headlines a Portuguese side which features a strong Premier League contingent led by last year’s breakout star, Bruno Fernandes.
The champions will kick off their new Nations League campaign against Croatia. The UEFA Nations League 2020 odds will not be in favour of the World Cup finalists, who will be missing key midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
Portugal have more than just Ronaldo in attack
Portugal are all set to begin the defence of their Nations League crown. They went undefeated in the group stage of last year’s tournament, getting a win and a draw against both Italy and Poland to qualify for the Nations League Finals.
The Portuguese performed surprisingly well despite not having talisman Cristiano Ronaldo for the entire group stage. Andre Silva stepped up in Ronaldo’s absence by scoring three of Portugal’s five goals in the group stage.
However, Ronaldo returned for their semi-final clash against Switzerland, and he scored a sensational hat-trick to send them through to the final against the Netherlands.
Ronaldo — who is coming off a 37-goal campaign with Serie A champions Juventus — is now set to participate in the group stage of this year’s competition. The 35-year-old is just one goal shy of 100 career international goals and will be desperate to reach that milestone against Croatia.
The Juventus star is expected to start up front, with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva offering support.
Fernandes took the Premier League by storm last season as his arrival in the winter helped Manchester United return to the Champions League. He finished with 12 goals and eight assists in 20 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos usually plays a conservative style, but aside from Ronaldo, Bruno, and Bernardo, he will have also strong attacking options on the bench in Joao Felix, Diogo Jota, Andre Silva, and Goncalo Guedes, who scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands.
Croatia missing midfield maestros
Croatia did not have a great experience in the first Nations League campaign last year. They were drawn in a tough group with England and Spain, they and finished in last place with two losses, one of which was a 6-0 demolition by the Spanish.
Things won’t get any easier this time around for Croatia, who will be without the veteran midfield duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic for their opening games.
The two have been crucial to the Croatians’ success over the last few years, particularly their run to the World Cup final in 2018. Their quality and experience will definitely be missed against Portugal.
However, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic still has a couple of capable midfielders in Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic and Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic to call upon.
Meanwhile, Croatia also have a pair of in-form forwards in Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic, who are both capable of producing some UEFA Nations League 2020 highlights.
Perisic emerged as a key player in Bayern Munich’s run to the Champions League title, while Rebic had a strong season for AC Milan with 11 goals — five of which came after the restart — and three assists.
Portugal don’t have the most impressive collection of defenders, which Croatia’s forwards could exploit.
Portugal have a terrific record against Croatia, with four wins and a draw in their five overall head-to-head meetings. They last met in a friendly in 2016, which resulted in a 1-1 draw after goals from Pepe and Perisic.
They also met in the round of 16 of Euro 2016. Portugal won 1-0 in extra-time thanks to a 117th-minute Ricardo Quaresma goal as they went on to win their first European championship.
|Portugal vs Croatia||1X2 Portugal @ 1.94|
|September 6, 02:45 (GMT+8)|
SBOTOP odds have Portugal priced as significant 1.94 favourites to start off their title defence with a win. Croatia are only 3.85 to claim a surprise victory while a draw is 3.30.
With no Modric and Rakitic, it’s hard to see Croatia coming out with a positive result in Porto. Not only do the Portuguese have the best player on the pitch in Ronaldo, but their supporting cast is also superior to Croatia’s.
Croatia could also be dealing with a bit of fatigue after the likes of Kovacic, Brozovic, and Perisic played long seasons for their respective clubs.
In the end, the signs point to Portugal starting their Nations League campaign with another win over Croatia.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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