Gareth Bale’s virtuoso last 10 minutes against Scotland on Friday has given Wales at least one more chance of qualifying from Group A for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It makes the away match against Croatia tonight (7pm BST) crucial.
After two losses from their first two matches, Wales needed all three points against Scotland in Cardiff on Friday night. Despite being behind for over 50 minutes to James Morrison’s first-half goal, Gareth Bale scored twice in the last 10 minutes to leapfrog Wales above Scotland into fourth in the group.
However one win should not see Wales celebrating, although for Manager Chris Coleman it is a welcome victory after four losses in his first four matches. Wales can’t keep relying on Gareth Bale, as in the last 12 months they only seem to be able to win matches off the back of his stellar performances.
Having given up the captaincy, Aaron Ramsey needs to give more to Wales and after a very strong start to the Premiership season for Arsenal, his country has every right to expect more. He did at least put in a strong second-half performance against Scotland but that resulted in a yellow card which means he is suspended for their tricky away trip to Croatia. With James Collins still suspended after his straight red card against Serbia, Wales may be boosted by the return of Adam Matthews.
Croatia are currently joint top of Group A after two wins and a draw. Croatia opened up with an impressive victory over Serbia before drawing with Belgium and most recently they beat Macedonia 2-1 on Friday. Croatia and Belgium are favourites to finish in the top 2 in the group and their head to head matches are likely to settle who finishes in the automatic qualifying spot and who has to endure the dreaded play-off.
Croatia qualified for the Euro’s in the summer but after failing to reach the quarter-finals, they will desperate to have another chance in Brazil in two years. If Croatia will be wary of Gareth Bale, then it is his former Tottenham teammate that will be the danger man for Croatia. Luka Modric moved to the Galacticos of Real Madrid over the summer and he is the stand out player in their squad. Fellow former Spurs player Vernan Corluka will also be a threat from right-back and he scored their first goal against Macedonia on Friday.
Wales captain Ashley Williams will be the man that will have to keep the diminutive yet inspirational Modric quiet and if he can somehow do that they may have a chance. Although a point would be a terrific result for Wales it will surely not be enough to see them qualify as they are still yet to travel to Belgium.
Croatia v Wales Betting Tips
Gareth Bale must be on song again for Wales and at least their victory over Scotland should have given them some confidence but will it be enough? The bookies don’t think so with Croatia a short price (best at 3/10 with Stan James and Betfred) to win at home and Wales as big as 11/1 with Bet365, SkyBet and Blue Square. The draw is best at 19/4 (nearly 5/1) with BetVictor.