Following an accomplished performance which warranted more than the 1-0 win over a respected Turkey side, Croatia should seal qualification to the knockout stages when they face a comparatively weak Czech Republic outfit in round two.
Boasting a raft of technically gifted individuals in midfield, the Croats seem well equipped to make inroads into the latter stages of Euro 2016, whereas the Czechs will need to seriously improve on their opening display to escape a treacherous Group D.
Although Pavel Vrba’s side only succumbed to a late strike against defending champions Spain, their goal had been under siege from the outset.
A combination of dogged defending, luck and Petr Cech’s athleticism prevented a more damning scoreline for the team that conceded 14 in qualification – the most of any side at Euro 2016.
Croatia look worthy of their 17/20 favouritism on the evidence of the first-round games, especially with Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric pulling the strings in midfield.
If his stunning volleyed goal made the ultimate difference, Modric’s all-round display underpinned his value with the former Tottenham man completing 52 of 57 passes, 24 of which were made in the final third.
Ante Cacic must have been a very satisfied manager to see his side gelling so well in their initial assignment, with 18 attempts raining in on Turkey’s goal and the woodwork intervening twice.
Having only conceded two shots on target against Turkey as well, a profitable avenue for this Group D collision could well be the win to nil for Croatia at 7/4.
Although denied by the woodwork against the Turks, six goals in qualification mark out Inter winger Ivan Perisic as a great value first goalscorer bet at 13/2 for the Saint-Etienne showdown.
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