Croatia are outsiders to win Euro 2020, but their World Cup final four years ago means these are dark horses with the finest of pedigrees.
Zlatko Dalić’s side have failed to reach the heights of their FIFA World Cup 2018 form over the past four years and only scraped through qualifying to make it to the Euro 2020 group stages.
But with talents such as Ante Rebić, Ivan Perišić and Ballon d’Or winner Luca Modric in their starting line-up, the 40/1 rank outsiders have the quality to hurt any team lining up for this summer’s tournament.
Croatia’s relatively high odds at all of our recommended sportsbooks means even a small bet could secure a hefty payout, should they manage to rekindle some of the form that saw them roar into the World Cup final four years ago.
Back then, Croatia completely turned the tables on Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland as they won what was considered to be the tournament’s ‘group of death’ before they dispatched Denmark, hosts Russia and England in the World Cup knockout stages. This time round, Croatia will first have to make it through a group featuring favourites England, Scotland and the Czech Republic.
Bookmakers expect them to make it to the quarterfinals, and their odds reflect that.
A bet on them lifting the Euro 2020 trophy will pay out around 40/1, but even making it to the semi-finals could deliver outsized returns: a top 2 finish will net you 13/1 odds while you can currently bet on them making the final 4 at 9/2 odds.
Croatia – a country of just 4 million people which only played its first competitive football in 1994 – heads to Euro 2020 with a team that is heavy on midfield talent but could lack some attacking bite.
Zlatko Dalić returns as coach following his World Cup 2018 exploits, but despite having integrated players such as midfield talent Nikola Vlasic into the squad, Dalić faces some domestic pressure following a disappointing UEFA Nations League campaign.
His task is complicated by the twin absences of Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic, with the two key members of Croatia’s golden generation having quit international football.
Dalić can however rely on a core group of veteran players to drive Croatia forward as he gives new generations of talent such as 19-year-old centre back Josko Gvardiol and 22-year-old midfielder Luka Ivanusec the opportunity to hone their skills.
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic kept six clean sheets during Dinamo Zagreb’s Europa League run and appears to have ably slotted into the position that used to belong to Danijel Subasic.
In defence, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida and Šime Vrsaljko are familiar names. They will be joined by younger talents such as Domagoj Bradarić, fresh from Ligue 1 victory with Lille and the highly-rated, 19-year-old centre back Josko Gvardiol, who Leipzig snapped up for €19 million this summer. Midfield is where Croatia’s real strength lies, with Serie A winners Marcelo Brozović and Ivan Perisic, Champions League winner Mateo Kovacic, Atalanta’s rising star Mario Pašalić and CSKA Moscow’s Nikola Vlašić among those vying for a starting place alongside captain and talisman Luka Modric.
Modric, the only Croatian to ever win the Balon d’Or, remains as important as ever to this team. When on form, his silky smooth technique makes him one of the world’s best midfielders and a player to look out for as one of the best to appear in Euro 2020.
But now aged 35 and having missed only two games from Real Madrid’s season, there may be questions about Modric’s ability to maintain that high level throughout the tournament.
If you expect creative midfielders to run riot but are worried by Modric’s stamina, it may be worth taking a look at Denmark and Christian Eriksen. The skillful 29-year-old is his side’s talisman, and having barely played at Inter before breaking into the side in January, he is probably fresher, too.
Up front, Croatia rely on the twin threats of Milan’s Ante Rebic and Hoffenheim striker Andrej Kramarić, with both entering Euro 2020 on the back of positive seasons with their respective clubs.
Despite their considerable blend of veteran experience and raw talent, Croatia are not expected to win Euro 2020 and their odds reflect that.
Dalić’s men, however, have shown that they have what it takes to upset the odds and take on football’s big boys.
If you are going to bet on Croatia as Euro 2020 outsiders, keep a close eye on the knockout draw and the form of key players such as Modric and Perisic during the team’s opening games. Both those factors will be key to determining Croatia’s fortunes.