England take on Croatia at 2pm on Sunday in the opener of Group D at Euro 2020.
The Three Lions will have home advantage on their side with all three of their group games taking place at Wembley Stadium, and will be looking to gain revenge on Croatia after their 2-1 semi-final defeat after extra-time at the 2018 World Cup.
Croatia no longer have Mario Mandzukic, who was their match winner that evening, or Ivan Rakitic after the duo’s international retirements, while Dejan Lovren is likely to miss out through injury.
England are 8/13 favourites to win this match, with the draw 11/4 and a Croatia win 5/1.
Get 30/1 Harry Kane to have a shot on target
While I think Croatia may be past their best now, England are clearly a little too short to be backing as a stand-alone match result.
However, The Blazers have clearly been struggling defensively of late, having only kept clean sheets against Malta and Cyprus in their last 13 games.
I’m happy to back England to score, then, given that only Denmark (twice) and Belgium have shut Gareth Southgate’s side out in their last 17 competitive matches.
Italian referee Daniele Orsato has been handed the whistle at Wembley, which is usually great news for card backers.
Orsato averaged 5.26 cards per game in Serie A last season and 4.20 in his five Champions League matches, and has shown both teams two or more cards each in 16 of his last 20 games.
Croatia’s disciplinary record is not a great one, either, having averaged 2.41 cards per game in their last 17 competitive games.
England are much cleaner (1.18) but they’re no angels either, as shown by them receiving three red cards in last year’s Nations League campaign.
There should be a bit of edge to the match after the drama in Moscow three years ago, so I’m going to back both teams to receive a card and 3+ cards overall for an odds-against bet builder:
There’s plenty of free bets knocking about for this game – Paddy Power, Sky Bet and bet365 are all offering £5 free bets for new & existing customers – so it’d be rude not to back a much longer priced bet builder.
Neither side failed to score during qualifying, with both teams to score landing in six of Croatia’s eight qualifiers and all six of their Nations League matches last year, so I’m happy to back this.
I do fancy England to narrowly extend their winning run to seven matches, while Southgate’s side have had 4+ corners in all of their matches since the return of football last summer and Croatia have had 3+ in all bar one of their’s:
My £5 free bet with Paddy Power will likely be going on Harry Kane to score and Marcelo Brozovic & Kalvin Phillips to be carded at 40/1.
Kane (13/10) should be full of confidence after bagging the Golden Boot in the Premier League (and at the World Cup), while tough-tackling midfielders Phillips and Brozovic received 10 and eight league bookings for Leeds and Inter respectively last season.
Phillips (7/2) will be keen to impress if he does start in midfield and was booked in each of his last three games of the season, while Brozovic (2/1) has been carded six times in his last 11 competitive games for his country.
There’s plenty of other candidates for Croatia, particularly in defence with the likes of Domagoj Vida (33/10), Duje Caleta-Car (7/2) and Borsa Barisic (9/2) certainly no strangers to the referee’s book for club and country.
Caleta-Car and Barisic make a tasty 25/1 double with bet365 given that they will likely be up against Kane and Phil Foden respectively, and both will be keen to impress having come into the side since the 2018 WC.
I’ll also pair Vida with Barisic as the experienced defender is not the tallest and could be physically dominated by Kane.
I don’t expect Jack Grealish to start, but it’ll be worth keeping half an eye on cards in-play if the Aston Villa man does come on from the bench as we all know how brilliantly he draws fouls.
England to score, 1+ card each & 3+ cards overall @ 21/20 (bet365)
England to win, BTTS, 1+ England card, 2+ Croatia cards, 4+ England corners & 3+ Croatia corners @ 14/1 (bet365)
Harry Kane to score and Marcelo Brozovic & Kalvin Phillips to be carded @ 40/1 (Paddy Power)
Duje Caleta-Car and Borsa Barisic to be carded @ 25/1 (bet365)
Domagoj Vida and Borsa Barisic to be carded @ 20/1 (bet365)