Croatia v England
Friday October 12, 19:45
Live on BT Sport

Croatia serving punishment

The World Cup semi-final between Croatia and England was played in front of a crowd of 78,000 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Friday's re-match will be watched by officially nobody.
No, it's not a mass rejection of the UEFA Nations League, the game is being played behind closed doors after UEFA punished Croatia for having a swastika marked on the pitch before a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy in June 2015.
Not only that, the match is being switched to a stadium in Rijeka which has a capacity of under 9,000.
The other fly in the ointment is trying to assess Croatia's mental state after the high of reaching a World Cup final.

They simply didn't look the same side when thrashed 6-0 by Spain in their opening match in this tournament so are they taking it seriously?

Even the most talented sides will get found out if not.

England looking to build again

In comparison to Croatia's 6-0 hammering, England's 2-1 home defeat to that same Spanish opposition at Wembley last month doesn't look too bad.

However, when added to the semi-final loss to Croatia and 2-0 reverse to Belgium in the World Cup third-place play-off, it meant Gareth Southgate's men were on a losing streak of three matches that needed to be halted.

They did just that with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland at Leicester's King Power Stadium although the Swiss were kicking themselves they left with nothing.

Southgate has continued his policy of promoting young players to his squad and James Maddison, Jordan Sancho and Mason Mount have all been brought in although the lack of a crowd means these would be somewhat unusual circumstances to make full England debuts.

Match odds a tight betting heat

Croatia are favourites at 2.78 but only just. England are 2.96 to bank the points while the draw is 3.25.

If this was being played in a full, bouncing stadium with Croatia on a mission I'd be very happy to back Zlatko Dalic's men but neither of the above applies.

One obvious route to pursue is to see how Croatia have performed in similar circumstances as it's not the first time they've been punished.

Since June 2015 they've played four previous games behind closed doors and not lost any. The games in question were a 1-1 draw with Italy, a 3-0 victory over Bulgaria, a 1-1 stalemate with Turkey and a 2-0 success against Iceland.

The latter three were all in their usual home venue (the Maksimir Stadium) so we're guessing if motivation levels drop at Friday's temporary and tiny alternative venue.

The 6-0 loss to Spain will surely have dented some pride though so I expect Croatia to show some sort of response.

To be honest, it's not a game to go big on but I think England will have enough tenacity to overcome this unusual test and grab a draw.

Trends say this will go unders...

England are usually an Unders team and that would have landed in 12 of their last 17 internationals.

The lack of atmosphere would only seem to help keep the goal count down and there were under 2.5 goals in three of those behind closed doors games mentioned above.
Romania were the latest team to endure such circumstances and, with no-one to cheer them on, were held 0-0 at home by Montenegro when recent form (successive home wins over Sweden, Chile and Finland) suggested they would win.

Having said that, Unders is a hot favourite at 1.65 and I'm not really prepared to go that low.

Under 1.5 at 2.80 may be an acceptable alternative to some.

Rashford better value than Kane to net

Harry Kane won the Golden Boot at the World Cup but Marcus Rashford has been the man for goals post-Russia, the Manchester United man netting in back-to-back games against Spain and Switzerland.

He's a decent 16/5 (Sportsbook) to extend that run to three while Kane is 13/10.

For Croatia, Ivan Perisic - the man who equalised in the World Cup semi - is a decent 4/1 to find the net but I'm not expecting goals so will shy away from the scorer markets.

Opta stat

England have lost three competitive games against Croatia since the turn of the Millennium, more than any against any other nation.
Back the draw at 3.25

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