Stadium: Luzhniki (Moscow).
The Russian national team begins a new period in their history with Valeri Karpin as their head coach. Will Karpin’s charges be able to beat Croatia? We predict that the opponents will share points in a hard-fought encounter.
The Russian national team failed during Stanislav Cherchesov’s time at the national team’s helm, which included a triumph at the home World Cup and successful qualification for the Euro-2020. Now Russian football will be led out of the crisis by Valeri Karpin, who looks much better in public than Cherchesov, but Karpin’s sporting results raise questions. Yes, Rostov recently sold off many of their leaders but, in 2021, the team got only three wins in 14 official games. Before the match against Croatia, the new coach has given the national team a couple of extra days to prepare, but will they help take the game to the next level?
The Croatian national team was a finalist at the last World Cup, which was held in Russia. More than three years have passed since then, but the memories of that success are still with us, although not many players are left in the squad. The European Championship finals were highly unsuccessful to the Croats. They started the tournament’s group stage with a 0-1 defeat to England, then a 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic, and their only win against Scotland was a 3-1 draw that took them into the round of 16 against Spain. Against La Roja, Zlatko Dalic’s charges looked very solid, finishing in regulation time with a 3-3 draw but then conceding twice, losing 3-5. The Croats will now bounce back from a World Cup 2022 qualifying loss to Slovenia, but victories over Cyprus and Malta have put them back in the top flight.
History of head-to-head encounters between Russia and Croatia
The teams have played four head-to-head games throughout their history. In the Euro 2008 qualifiers, the opponents played both times in a draw with the same score of 0-0. In 2015, the Croats won the friendly game 3-1, and in the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-final, 120 minutes ended in a 2-2 draw, with the Checkers winning on penalties.
Expert Betting Tips
The Russian and Croatian teams approach the encounter in roughly a similar state. Both failed at UEFA EURO 2020, but their World Cup 2022 qualifiers ended with six points apiece after three rounds, allowing them to share the top spot in the standings. The most acceptable option for both teams in the upcoming match is a draw. Valeri Karpin noted that such an outcome would be suitable for his side and that the Croatians are having too many stuff problems to count on three points in an away game. Moreover, the opponents failed to pick a winner in the three previous official head-to-head encounters, so we suggest betting on a draw at around 3.22.
It is unlikely that we should expect high scoring activity in the upcoming encounter. Yes, Valeri Karpin has promised that his charges will play bold football, but it hardly means that they will rush headlong into the attack, forgetting about defence, and even without a precise number one in goal, who could provide backup. The upcoming game is too important for both teams, as they currently share the top spot in the standings, and any error could give their opponents a huge advantage in the battle for a place in Qatar. Besides, in the three previous official head-to-head encounters, only two goals were scored (0.67 average per game), so the best option for the prediction seems to be Total Under (2) goals at odds of about 2.34.
We all remember when Russia were incredibly close to the semi-finals of the home World Cup on 7 July 2018. Still, Fyodor Smolov made a mistake sending Croatia into the next round. After that, Smolov suffered several injuries, recovered for a long time, due to which there was even talk about the possible end of the player’s career, and there was no talk of a call-up to the national team. He survived the difficulties and is now once again the country’s most potent forward. In six rounds of this season, he scored six goals and received Valeri Karpin’s invitation to the team, where the first opponent will be Croatia. In such a situation, it is worth taking a closer look at a bet on Fyodor Smolov’s goal with odds of around 3.05.