Qualifiers, Wednesday 11.10.


Paster of Muppets
First of, my approach to betting is far too serious for me to be betting with my heart, I can support a team but betting on them is a different thing. But here I think we have a decent bet at our hands.

I skipped betting on the game in Moscow, where Croatia coped very well with a revamped team and a new coach, and England surely seemed to be on the rise then, but not at the moment. Let me just tell you a few facts, then you'll see why I find 1.55 on 1X (local bookie) a very good bet here.

1)England are very powerful, perhaps one of the best teams in the world, looking by names and reputation. However, they don't look like a team, and as long as I can remember that has been a fact. I remember 96' and Venables' team, they had glimses of teamwork and they understood each other very well, but it all faded away very quickly. Also they had a solid few games back in 1998., and of course Euro 2004 where they destroyed Baric's Croatia without many problems.
I was one of Eriksson's naysayers, never liked the guy, and I thought McClaren will set them straight soon, it surely looked like that for a while, but the game against Macedonia overshadowed that big win over Greece and released media hound dogs on McClaren and his team. Not the best situation if you ask me. And that's only pressure wise.

2)England will be missing Hargreaves, Gerrard, probably Rio Ferdinand. Gerrard is probably their best player, Hargreaves is very useful while only Rio Ferdinand can play sweeper role in McClaren's team.

3)Wayne Rooney hasn't scored in 16 hours of play.

4)Stewart Downing and Scott Parker aren't in best form ever, and with Shaun Wright Phillips (bench warmer in his club) I don't think the newly formed midfield (alongside Frank Lampard, who has seen better days when it comes to scoring) are able to outplay Croatia in Maksimir.

5)Croatia hasn't lost a home match since it's independence, except the friendly match against France. As far as qualifiers are concerned, Croatia are unbeaten.

6)Despite the fact that The S*n and similar tabloid crap newspapers tried to create a fuss from Slaven Bilic's estimation that England game was crap on WC (he said similar for Croatia's play on that tournament), Slaven Bilic is respected in England, and as a player that wore West Ham and Everton jerseys and spent some time analyzing the coaching of Arsene Wenger, I'm sure he is more than suitable for the job.

It will be a hard match no doubts about that, but current problems in England squad, mixed with bitter feeling of draw against Macedonia, surely can't mean anything bad for the Croats.

position breakdown

GK - edge to the visitors, Paul Robinson hasn't conceded a goal in almost 9 hours, if we don't count those two goals by Sweden, both after free kicks.

Defence: Croatia have Josip Simunic who will look after Crouchie, also in form Dario Simic, and dependable Robert Kovač, a solid back 4, there are several variables, with Corluka as RB or Simic at that position.

England's back 4 is solid as well, Ledley King, experienced Gary Neville, Ledley King and Terry who was solid even in an all round lousy game against Macedonia. Pretty tied here, both defensive lines play together for a while, no big shuffles here.
England's big miss will be Rio Ferdinand.

England's ideal midfield is one of the strongest in the world (Hargreaves, Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham), but after first two are out due injuries and Becks playing the role of a scapegoat of the new system, Lampard will connect with Man United's Carrick in CM. Lampard has seen better days, and I definitely don't like solutions like Phil Neville on the wing, or Wright Phillips who isn't playing much lately.
Scott Parker is a big question, England have several tactical solutions with 3-5-2 so I won't make any big analysis here. The fact is, their big misses are Hargreaves and Gerrard.
Croatia will have left footed Rapaic as a RM (replacing injured Srna who is a big miss), new Portsmouth acquisition Niko Kranjčar on the left side, and N.Kovač - Modrić duo in the middle. Perhaps we will see Eduardo as a midfield-forward, paired up with Petric up front. Klasnic or Eduardo is also a question, but I think Bilic will decide for Klasnic, despite his scoring drought.

Attack: I always liked Peter Crouch, no wonder, but as you know Crouch backers always had to fight with knee jerk bollocks and stupid remarks made about his height and looks, which btw have nothing to do with his game, which was very good even last season when he couldn't score for 20 games. He still knows how to play, he's a typical set up player, but this season this guy is on a serious roll. He is very good technically, and will have to use that against tall Simunic who will be glued to him after every FK or corner.
Wayne Rooney is totally the opposite. Man U striker is out of form for a while now and even though his talent is immense, it's hard to expect that he will explode against such a tough backline on hot venue as Maksimir surely is.
Don't underestimate Mladen Petric. FC Basel striker is one of the hottest strikers in Europe right now, this guy is a scoring machine this season. Eduardo from Dinamo Zagreb has pace and speed, he also has solid ball control and will play in front of his fans.
Ivan Klasnic can't seem to shake off the bad form. Expect Bosko Balaban to enter in mid 2nd half, he is always dangerous when he enters, also Ivica Olic with his speed is an option. Plenty more combinations here for Bilic than McClaren, who has to pray that Rooney will end his scoring drought.

Keys to win:

For England, it will basically be Crouch or Rooney's move since I really doubt Lampard will get back to scoring in Zagreb. Gerrard could've been a huge threat but Lampard, Carrick and SWP won't be as much, even though they are surely dangerous and nothing to underestimate.
Croatia will search to control the midfield and neutralize Crouch's set up plays from long balls. Modric and/or Eduardo will run a lot trying to find a gap in England's defence, Niko Kovač will probably watch Lampard, and of course, if Croatia want to win, they will have to insist on ground play, a lot of combinations and clever passes rather than long balls, which will be drowned deep in England's half.

Basically, I believe this will be a very hard match, but according to team situations (injuries, absentees) and morale/confidence level in both teams , Croatia should be able to get something from this game and stay unbeaten. Croatia DNB is my call here, 5 units.

Other bets coming up... :cheers:
was looking for your insight on this. I hope Slaven Bilic can live up to his words. The pressure is certainly on England and they should of buried their chances against Macedonia. A draw here could certainly cause chaos in the England camp. The more head games, the better. Good Luck to you Croats!
KingKrunked said:
good luck...fyi, in america, 11.10 means november 10....not sure who does it backwords.

well obviously I'm not from America am I :D. But this is an american board and I should comply, you're right. I'll write the name of the month next time. :cheers: :shake:
Toronto_Mike said:
was looking for your insight on this. I hope Slaven Bilic can live up to his words. The pressure is certainly on England and they should of buried their chances against Macedonia. A draw here could certainly cause chaos in the England camp. The more head games, the better. Good Luck to you Croats!
thanks Mike, I hope we can do it. :cheers: :shake:
Hey guys, we won :D.
Here's a game review, sorry for posting it rather late.

50 000 people, top class atmosphere, and no incidents, no racial shit, nothing whatsoever. Saw a few fights as I was getting to the stadium, english fans v croatian fans, some stupid cunt thought he'd be so smart wearing a Celtic jersey, well that wasn't accepted by some of the english lads and fists started flying.
The police just stood there for a while then went in and restored order, around 187 croatian fans were arrested overall this weekend, 31 english supporters.

Well, let's get on to the game.

What a great win! Surely a well deserved one, England were mediocre, lack of initiative up front (only 4-5 shots towards goal), and besides that chance Rooney had no serious threats were noted towards Pletikosa, I won't count that distance shot from Man you striker in the 85+.

Props to our coach. And let me tell you, once again, he denied that "England is shit" came out of his mouth at least 50 times last week, since the press (S*n and similar crappy newspapers) were all eager to start a fight. But Bilic is a huge fan of english culture, and I think all honest guys out there know that.

Young coach, but so far he's done all good, very bold and logical moves (Petric instead of Klasnic, called up Rapaic who plays well for Liege, recruited Corluka and Eduardo to first 11, etc), it would be wrong to drown in euphoria now, it's only one win, but a huge step towards the tournament in Austria and Switzerland has been done and this is a win to respect.
I liked the Modric-Kranjcar duo in the middle, and I liked the fact that all players ran like hell throughout the game, no waiting for the opponent, no overdefending, no cowardly play, those boys came out to play and to outplay the opponent, so croatian fans have every right to be proud today. Plus the fans were exemplary, except for some incidents around the stadium, during the game there were no racist comments, no incidents whatsoever, which is good. The ref was solid, one huge error in the last second of 1st half when he managed to oversee a clear foul by Neville on Kranjcar. Later on, he did a similar thing when Simunic fouled Lampard. Apart from that no mistakes were done I think.

The own goal: I was like WTF. Then I said, hold on. It better not be Jamie or I won't celebrate . Then when I saw certain manc's name in the goal scoring column I was extatic. It was Robinson's fluke that's for sure, the ball jumped in the wrong moment and screwed him up. But hey, you have to calm the ball then shoot, only he is to blame.

Steve McClaren will have a lot to explain to the english press and fans, but let's leave that to him. As a friend of english football (Liverpool being my favourite club), I was glad to see David Beckham kicked from the team, as I never liked that guy, a good player but too much hype over that pass. However, and I must say: How can you NOT invite him when you're missing Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Michael Owen, Ledley King, Owen Hargreaves, how can you not invite him when you no longer have Paul Scholes, Sol Campbell and lack creativity in the middle when Parker, Downing or Kieran Richardson are concerned. Lampard and Crouch were very well covered today by croatian defence, Simic, Simunic, and especially young Corluka did great. I respect England, but I don't think they can get rid of Beckham so easily. Never thought I'd be saying that, but that's exactly what England lacked in Zagreb, a good distance pass. Petey Crouch was invisible, wiped from the field. Rooney is out of form which was good for us, had he scored that chance one on one v Pletikosa I don't think it would've been easy for us to win.

Won't write anything more, what a great day, we beat England, one of the mightiest teams in the world.