The Nations League is perhaps one of the least celebrated competitions in international football, but both Croatia and Spain should be determined to get their name on the trophy when they meet in Rotterdam on Sunday.
Croatia, who have reached a final and a semi-final in the last two World Cups, are to win the match at the Feyenoord Stadium inside 90 minutes after they beat the host the Netherlands 4-2 after extra-time in their semi-final.
|Croatia v Spain
|Feyenoord Stadium, Rotterdam
|19:45, Sunday 18th July 2023
|How to watch
|Channel 4 & Viaplay Sports 1
|Croatia 11/4, Draw 12/5, Spain
Croatia are underdogs for Sunday’s match in Rotterdam but Zlatko Dalic’s team will not worry about that one bit.
They are to win their first international trophy and plenty of punters will view that as a decent price for a team whose only defeat in their last 16 matches came in their 3-0 World Cup semi-final loss to Argentina.
That defeat came four years after they lost to France in the World Cup final and their Nations League campaign showed them in an excellent light before they headed to Qatar.
Inspired by their star midfielder Luka Modric, they gained revenge on Les Bleus with a 1-0 win and also did the double over Denmark, whose reputation has been growing in the last few years.
There is enormous national pride in the camp and a first trophy will be hailed as a great success for a young country which has produced so many fine players in the last 25 years.
Spain, meanwhile, are now under the stewardship of Luis de la Fuente, who replaced Luis Enrique after their disappointing Qatar experience.
Things seemed to be going swimmingly when they beat Costa Rica 7-0, but a loss to Japan was a disappointment and they fell in a penalty shootout to eventual semi-finalists Morocco.
A poor 2-0 defeat to Scotland followed in a Euro 2024 qualifier, so at least their win against Italy on Thursday steadied the ship, but plenty will not be attracted to their price of 1/2 to win the trophy.
If extra-time is ignored, the last three meetings between these countries have featured 17 goals, with Spain’s 5-3 victory at the last Euros in Copenhagen after extra-time proving an absolute thriller.
Meanwhile, another team market to keep an eye on could be the number of cards that are shown by German referee Felix Zwayer.
Four Croatians were shown a card against the Netherlands, all in normal time, and there were six bookings in total, while there were also five cards shown in Spain’s 2-1 win over Italy.
The goalscorer markets are interesting, particularly as it seems unlikely either coach will make any changes to their starting line-ups.
The semi-final losers will almost certainly switch a few players around for the third-place game earlier in the day, but that should not apply here.
While Espanyol striker Joselu came on as a substitute to score the winning goal against the Azzurri, it seems highly unlikely that he will get the nod, particularly as Alvaro Morata is the captain these days.
He scored both goals in their most recent Euro 2014 qualifier in Turkey and he is 10/1 to find the net within 90 minutes on Sunday.