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Betting preview: Croatia - England

The Croatia national team offers a fine example of the distinction between negativity and uncertainty avoidance. Zlatko Dalic's men aren't defensive as such, but they don't take many risks either. They want the ball and control most of the play, but there's a lack of urgency when it comes to scoring goals. They don't get many bodies ahead of the ball.

This isn't anything new. Their two knockout games at this tournament have mirrored two previous knockout matches over the past decade at Euro 2008 and Euro 2016. Croatia started all four games as favourites but all four went to extra time, with the Vatreni dominating possession and looking technically superior but never taking the lead in normal time.

The quarter-final against Russia did at least break the mould of previous encounters against Turkey, Portugal and Denmark insomuch that it was blessed with the energy of a host nation setting a much higher intensity level. And it probably dragged the Balkans out of their comfort zone, at least in terms of the energy they were forced to expand.

On the one hand, you could argue that their risk-averse policy has been justified by the fact they are here now, having at least matched and probably exceeded most pre-tournament expectations. But playing the long game and taking the scenic route comes at a price on their legs - a heavy one judging by their depleted state in the closing stages against the hosts.

The potential advantage to be gained by England is lost on nobody. And the problem with going beyond the 90 minutes at this stage is two-fold: not only are the effects real - physical and not just emotional - but they are compounded by the lift it gives your next opponents. It's one thing suspecting you might have an advantage, and another thing knowing you do.

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Gareth Southgate's men posted a routine 2-0 victory over Sweden four days ago and were probably still en route from Samara back to their base camp in Repino when the Croatia players started cramping up in the latter stages in Sochi. But one assumes they have seen the images since and felt the surge of excitement that greets such a unique opportunity.

Croatia were in celebratory mood for much of the evening following their triumph over Russia, judging by the images posted by Danijel Subasic on his Instagram. There was no holding back in the patriotic songs on the team bus and also later back at the hotel, which feeds into the impression of a team that might be ready for home.

You could argue that England haven't come up against opposition of this calibre yet and, all things being equal, odds of around 7/5 on Croatia to qualify would raise a few eyebrows. But taking the pre-match conditions into account, the 13/10 on England to prevail inside the 90 minutes is more than acceptable.

Recommended bet:

England to beat Croatia at 13/10 

FIFA - World Cup Croatia vs England 11 July, 18:00 GMT 0

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