World Cup Preview: Can Sleeper Croatia Keep Up Pace vs. Denmark?
Croatia vs. Denmark, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
- Croatia -118
- Denmark +433
- Draw +222
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No team in the opening round of the World Cup stood out more than Croatia. Despite their long odds (+3300), I had picked Croatia to win the whole tournament, and after watching them sweep Group D — one of the tournament’s toughest sets — I love the bet even more.
The Vatreni have manhandled their three opponents thus far, and the most impressive part of their run is how they’ve been able to shut down three teams that play completely different styles. In each contest, Zlatko Dalic’s men adapted to their opponents and walked all over them. Their 3-0 win over Argentina stands out the most, though, as they completely removed Lionel Messi from the game.
As Michael Goodman wrote in his round of 16 preview, Croatia just have so much flexibility on their roster, and they can throw so many different lineups out without suffering. There aren’t many other teams in the tournament that can do that.
Denmark, on the other hand, struggled mightily in the first round and are lucky to still be standing. The Danes scored just two goals — one of which was a wonder-goal by their star, Christian Eriksen — and that was good enough to earn them five points. Against Peru, Denmark was second-best but still managed to luck out a win. They followed that performance with a 1-1 draw against an abysmal Australia side and then a 0-0 draw against France. To this point, Denmark have lacked the ability to put anything together offensively.
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Based on what we’ve seen so far, I think Croatia will handle Denmark with relative ease, but I wouldn’t expect them to score many goals. Croatia have suffocated their opponents, and I would think they’ll try to stymie Eriksen’s influence on the game like they did with Messi. When you remove Eriksen from the Denmark game plan, they are left with a lot of people who struggle to create. They would most likely rely on Pione Sisto to try and generate offense.
One last thing to remember is that Dalic was able to rest most of his lineup in the final group stage game, and with the temperatures soaring in Russia, I think that will be a big benefit, especially in the latter stages of the game.
Look for Croatia to slow Denmark down all game and, if they get a lead, completely take Eriksen out of the game. I think there’s value on Croatia to win what should be a low-scoring affair.