- Croatia is favored to win Group E of 2020 UEFA European Championship qualifying
- Croatia played France in the 2018 World Cup final
- The Croats have qualified for the past four Euro tournaments
Croatia is heavily-favored to win Group E of qualifying for the 2020 UEFA European Championship qualifying, and with good reason.
The Croats are coming off their finest performance in the country’s history of international soccer tournaments. They reached the final of the 2018 World Cup before falling 4-2 to France.
2020 Euro Qualifying Group E Winner Odds
|Team||Odds to Win Euro 2020 Group E|
Odds taken on 03/19/19.
Croatia has qualified for the last four UEFA European Championships.
Rough Stretch for Croatia
The Croatians posted impressive victories over Argentina (3-0) and England (2-1) during their stunning run to the World Cup final. But since then, Croatia has struggled to find similar form.
The Croats were a disappointing 1-2-1 in the group stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League. They dropped away matches to Spain (6-0) and England (2-1). At home, they held England to a scoreless draw and edged the Spaniards 3-2.
As the away performance against Spain indicated, the Croatians are struggling defensively.
From the first-team back four that played in the World Cup side, it looks as though only veteran Domagoj Vida will be available for the March 21 Group stage opener against Azerbaijan.
Šime Vrsaljko is expected to miss six months due to an ACL injury.
Dejan Lovren goes in hard on Sergio Ramos and Spain 😳 pic.twitter.com/sHt2SQmmZv
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) November 16, 2018
Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren is serving a one-match UEFA-imposed ban for derogatory comments he made about the Spanish side. Left back Ivan Strinic has not played this season. He was diagnosed with hypertrophy of the heart muscle in August.
— Aston Villa News (@AVFC_News) December 28, 2018
On top of that, Lovre Kalinić, who took over as first-choice goalkeeper following the post-World Cup retirement of Danijel Subašić, has been out of favor with Aston Villa. Acquired recently via transfer, Kalinić surrendered six goals in his last three matches with Villa. His most recent appearance was Feb. 16.
Euro 2016 Was a Welsh Treat
The magic that Croatia created during their Cinderella story in the 2018 World Cup was very nearly emulated by Wales at Euro 2016.
Qualifying for their first international tournament since the 1958 World Cup, the Welsh took a fairy tale ride to the semifinals before ultimately succumbing to eventual champions Portugal.
Like the Croatians post World Cup, Wales have struggled to find that magical formula ever since.
But like the Croatians post World Cup, Wales have struggled to find that magical formula ever since. The Welsh show a 7-4-5 record in international matches since that loss to the Portuguese. They’ve lost two of their last three and netted just two goals in those three matches.
The biggest problem currently facing manager Ryan Giggs is that so few of his key players are playing first-team soccer for their club sides. Skipper Ashley WIlliams recently returned to Stoke’s lineup after being out a month. Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made one first-team appearance for Crystal Palace in March after playing just once in February.
— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) March 19, 2019
At least the Welsh can count on their resident superstar Gareth Bales. The man with the man bun remains a presence in Real Madrid’s side and has lost none of his goal-poaching ability.
Wales will play a March 20th friendly against Trinidad and Tobago prior to opening the Euro slate at home to Slovakia.
Who Wins It?
This group will come down to a battle between Croatia and Wales. Slovakia is 1-3-1 in its last five matches and show recent losses to the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Morocco. Hungary and Azerbaijan aren’t factors.
Croatia’s recent struggles aside, they are still the class of this group. The Welsh simply can’t match their depth, although Wales will grab the second qualifying berth behind the group-winning Croats.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.