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The odds for Croatia vs Spain are from the Betway Casino, where you can get $250 back in bonus bets.
This could be Zlatko Dalic’s time to triumph in what should be a close match.
In European soccer, there is little doubt that Croatia have been the greatest overachievers in recent years. A nation with less than four million people living within its borders finished second at World Cup 2018. Four years later they came third. And now they are within touching distance of a trophy once again.
One of the golden rules of international soccer is to never write Croatia off. Few anticipated them reaching the recent World Cup final in Qatar. And after a 0-0 draw with Morocco in their first game, no one was minded to change their opinion.
Flying under the radar is just how Croatia like it. They ended up advancing as runners-up in Group F, before eliminating Japan in the round of 16. Brazil were strong favorites for their quarter-final clash and the Selecao took the lead through Neymar in extra time.
Still Croatia refused to give in. They equalized late on and then triumphed on penalties to reach the last four. Now through to the final of the Nations League, Croatia continue to punch above their weight.
Again, the best online sportsbooks had them down as the underdogs against the Netherlands in midweek. Croatia conceded the first goal. They also let in an equalizer deep into second-half stoppage time.
No bother. The Vatreni have a remarkable ability to stay composed and unruffled no matter what a game throws at them. Croatia settled back into their rhythm and proceeded to win the match in extra time, silencing the majority of the De Kuip crowd in the process.
"It would be a great reward to win the gold medal, I think we have deserved it," Dalic, their unassuming manager, said after the game. “We have been a team of constant quality for the past six years.”
No one would dispute that.
When Sergio Busquets hung up his international boots at the end of World Cup 2022, he broke a link from the present Spain side to the one which was officially crowned the best team on the planet in South Africa in 2010.
There are no longer any surviving players from that tournament within the Roja group. That, together with the resignation of Luis Enrique after the Qatar World Cup, suggests that Spain are a team in transition.
That is not to say they have wholeheartedly turned to youth. Their squad for these Finals contains the 37-year-old Jesus Navas, the 34-year-old Jordi Alba, and the 33-year-old Joselu, who notched the winner against Italy on Thursday.
At the same time, Gavi (18), Yeremy Pino (20), and Ansu Fati (20) are among the youngsters who could feature on Sunday. Pedri, arguably the most gifted of all Spain’s precocious talents, is currently injured but will no doubt have a big role to play at Euro 2024.
The jury remains out on Luis de la Fuente, the low-profile manager who was picked as Luis Enrique’s successor. He has never coached in La Liga but his work with Spain’s youth teams is one thing in his favor. Winning a trophy within a few months of his appointment would be another boost.
“In the Under-21s we won the title, at the Olympic Games we also won the silver medal, and in the national team we want to keep winning,” Dani Olmo told UEFA.com in defence of his boss.
Spain supporters will hope De la Fuente lifts another piece of silverware at De Kuip on Sunday.
Spain are the favorites to come out on top in the final, but as we have already established Croatia will not mind that one bit. They have beaten Spain in two of their last four meetings, although la Roja triumphed last time out with a 5-3 win at Euro 2020.
Spain will probably edge the possession here, but Croatia’s technically gifted midfield trio of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, and Mateo Kovacic means they are capable of taking the ball away from their opponents.
In the past Spain have been undone by a lack of penetration and incision, so it will be interesting to see if that has changed under De la Fuente. There were certainly some positive signs in that regard against Italy, but this will arguably be a sterner test.
At the odds available, it is hard to look past a Croatia victory. Rather than betting the moneyline, tip the Vatreni to lift the trophy - the price is shorter but a win in extra time or on penalties would be successful.
Croatia is a smaller country than Spain but on the football field, there is little between them. Dalic’s team, therefore, look overpriced at +170, so do not pass up that offer
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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