Croatia v Czech Republic: Back the HT draw at Hampden

Paul Higham says the Croatia v Czech Republic game has slow-burner written all over it at Hampden Park...

Croatia up against it after losing start

We fancied Croatia would come into this game without a point on the board, but it's a lot more serious now they're facing a Czech Republic side who'll be hugely confident after kicking off with a win against Scotland.

That win means the Czechs can sit back and it'll be up to Zlatko Dalic's side to break them down, but they'll have to be a lot more creative than they were against England - and Scotland did show that you can get chances against this Czech Republic side.

Croatia have never lost their second game at a major tournament, and they've also never lost to Friday's opposition in their three previous meetings.

The pressure is on at Hampden Park though, even though it's not yet a must-win as a draw would still keep Croatia's chances going heading into their final game against Scotland.

Czechs bouncing after Scotland victory

It wasn't quite a smash-and-grab last time out but the Czech Republic were under pressure for long spells against Scotland, but in Patrik Schick had the one player of true ability on the field - and that ability told.

And Schick will be the best striker on the pitch again on Friday - with the Czechs also more comfortable in their surroundings with this their second game in Glasgow.

Furthermore, the Czechs know a draw will likely see them through, although only one of their last 19 group games at major tournaments has finished all square. Ironically that was against Croatia at Euro 2016.

There's no reason for them to change their style for this game, they'll lay back and flood defensive and midfield areas and force Croatia to try and win it - and in Schick they have firepower on the break.

Croatia still favourites despite slow start

Croatia go in as the 2.0 favourites - a price that has eased after their respective first games, with the Czechs 3.75 to maintain an unlikely 100 percent record.

The draw is intriguing at 3.3 as it's all that the Czechs really need and the game should pan out to be a lot of Croatian possession but if they're anything like against England they may struggle to create chances.

Their last meeting saw the Czech Republic come from 2-0 down to grab a draw, and maintain the four-goal average across their three meetings. Goals look like being in short supply this time around though.

Under 2.5 is just 1.67 and both teams to score is the 1.9 outsider of two as only an early Czech goal would prompt any sort of concerted urgency from this Croatian team intent of hogging the ball and prodding and probing for openings.

Schick the only striker of quality

Ante Rebic was the only Croatian to have more than a single shot against England but his three failed to trouble Jordan Pickford, and when you see he's scored with just one of his last 31 efforts on goal then you can see his side's problem.

Schick, on the other hand, had five shots on target against Scotland - that's the most any Czech Republic player has ever had at a major tournament, and his two goals mean he's been involved in 10 in his last nine starts (eight goals, two assists).

He looks a big price at 3.6 to score anytime and will be in plenty of bets this week, the only problem is how many chances he'll get in what will be a conservative approach from Jaroslav Silhavy.

This game all depends on whether what we saw against England was the true beginning of the end for Croatia or just a tough day at the office - they look a good price for the win if they're anything like themselves.

That question mark is enough to put anyone off though, and instead we'll play on the way the game should go, and that's a slow burner with few goals.

There were eight half-time draws out of the first round of 12 matches, and that looks the most likely of all possibilities for this game. You couldn't rule out some late magic from Shchick, or Croatia to finally find a breakthrough.

Neither side will be going all-out early though, making the half-time draw here looking like a good bet at 2.0.

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