World Cup: Croatia’s Talent Should Prove Too Much For Nigeria

Jun 16, 2018 7:00 AM EDT

Croatia vs. Nigeria, 3 p.m. ET Saturday, Fox Sports 1

  • Croatia -132
  • Nigeria +457
  • Draw +269

Bet to Watch:

Croatia -132 (5Dimes)

In the final game on Saturday, we will get to see my adopted team for the 2018 World Cup — Croatia.  As I discussed in my preview for Croatia, I think there was value on picking them to win the tournament at +3300. However, this game poses a massive test, as Nigeria are the hardest team for me to read in the entire field.

The Super Eagles finished atop their group in qualifying and boast a lineup full of established players from the Premier League. The most well-known player, Chelsea’s Victor Moses, will be the main cog. Moses will play a different role for Nigeria than he does with Chelsea. In England, the speedy Moses plays as a wingback, but with Nigeria he will be a focal point of their attack. The issue for the Super Eagles is that they lack talent down the middle — especially on defense. Nigeria’s backline lacks a star, so Wilfred Ndidi will need to pick up the slack as a shield in front of the rearguard and dominate the midfield for Nigeria to have a chance here.

Croatia, on the other hand, come into this game with a plethora of talent all over the field. Based on the formation and the quality Croatia has in the midfield, with the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric, they should have a lot of the ball in this contest while Nigeria will need to live off the counter.

In previous international campaigns, Rakitic played underneath the striker while Modric was deployed more in a defensive role in the center of the midfield. Over the last few months, however, they have reversed these roles.

At the beginning of June, Croatia hosted Senegal as a warmup in preparation for this Nigeria game. On paper, Senegal is a much better side than Nigeria — especially in the middle of the park. Croatia held 65% of the possession and dominated a lot of that game. They also racked up seven corner kicks and conceded none. This is something worth exploring, as the Vatreni like to deploy Mario Mandzukic as a target forward, which leads to plenty of corner opportunities. I think Croatia -1.5 corners (+140 Bovada) is a great bet and adds excitement to the entire game for someone looking to have a flutter.

For a more traditional bet, I would expect Croatia to come in fully prepared for this game and not look ahead to their matchup with Argentina. Due to the lack of talent in the midfield and at center back for Nigeria, look for the Croatians’ skill to overpower them and overwhelm. Croatia at -130 to win the game is my favorite of the day.

Follow Sean Newsham on Twitter
@psufans2

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