Japan and Croatia square off in the World Cup round of 16, with these two teams advancing from their groups following tough battles. Both units had to fight for their lives in the last round, with Japan beating Spain and Croatia withstanding massive pressure coming from Belgia, who failed to reach the knockout stage. The runners-up from Russia survived and are again after the title, although, just a few believe they could go to the finals. Japan is here deservingly, yet, they did have a helping hand in the last round.
Japan (+300) beat Spain 2-1 in the last game of the group stage, jumping over the Red Fury and taking over the top spot. Behind them were Germans, whom they beat in the opening encounter, 2-1, and Costa Rica, against whom the Samurai lost, 0-1, despite heavily outplaying them.
Spain was up 1-0 at the break, yet strangely slowing down in the second half and conceding twice in a short span. Many would say that they wanted to pick the side of the draw in the knockout stage and avoid Brazil, and we would agree with it.
But it would be unfair for Japan to miss this part of the tournament, as they played good and fair football. Beating Germany was above all expectations, the same as losing to Costa Rica, who, by the way, crossed the half once and scored.
Croatia (+105) endured tough final 20 minutes against Belgium, as they had luck watching over their shoulders. We know that Romelu Lukaku isn’t in shape for a long time, but what he missed against Croatia is simply unexplainable.
Even though Zlatko Dalic’s boys aren’t playing well, they didn’t lose a game in the previous nine contests, winning six times and posting two draws. Two were in the group stage, against Morocco, 0-0 and Belgium, with the same results, while beating Canada, 4-1.
This team is extremely experienced, and it knows how to play in various situations. That versatility and adaptability are, in fact, the biggest weapons of the Croat unit. They like to play slow and smooth football but are also aggressive when needed. The midfield stands above all other areas, as it has the most prominent stars – Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic.
Ko Itakura is suspended for the Japanese side, and Borussia Monchengladbach’s defender won’t be able to play on Monday.
The Croats have all of their players ready and healthy.
Head to Head
We saw two meetings at World Cups between these two nations.
Back in 1998 in France, Croatia won, 1-0, with legendary Davor Suker netting the only goal. Later on, the Croats would reach the semis and take the bronze. Eight years later, in Germany, these two teams split a point each in one dull game that didn’t see any goals.
We will go with Croatia, because of the star power and the fact that they play these types of games all the time, against much tougher rivals. The odds are nice, and we can more than double our stake here, +105.
Pick: Croatia wins +105
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Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.