Friendly – Portugal v Croatia Preview

Croatia have the opportunity to test whether their run to the World Cup final was a flash in the pan or the start of a glorious period in their football history, when they play Portugal in a friendly international on Thursday.

There are fears that the superb run in Russia was the last hurrah for the current crop of Croatian stars, such as Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Ivan Perisic – 7.50 to score the first goal against Portugal.

They could soon follow in the footsteps of Mario Mandzukic, Vedran Corluka and Danijel Subasic, who have all retired from international football in the last few weeks. They are all going to be in their mid-30s when the next World Cup gets underway and may decide to call it a day before the action in Qatar gets underway.

Can Croatia build on World Cup heroics?

However, even if Croatian football does go into decline in the next few years, the achievement of reaching this summer’s World Cup final will ensure the current squad is remembered as fondly, if not more so, than the stars of 1998 – who were beaten in the semi-finals.

Portugal were knocked out by Uruguay in Russia, after surprisingly winning Euro 2016, and will be without Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who will also not be involved in their Nations League match against Italy on Monday.

Fernando Santos is using the game to blood a host of youngsters and his team may struggle for goals, as Sevilla’s Andre Silva is the only player in the current squad to have scored more than 10 times for his country. He is 6.00 to score the first goal on Thursday.

Ronaldo to miss friendly

Portugal’s recent form is not particularly good as they have only won three of their last 10 encounters and have lost to the Netherlands, as well as being held to draws by the USA and Tunisia, in the last 12 months.

The two teams have met on four previous occasions and Portugal have won all of them.

The most recent meeting was at Euro 2016, when Portugal triumphed 1-0 after extra time – Ricardo Quaresma scoring the crucial goal in Lyon.

Croatia can end poor record

At Euro 2006, Portugal eased to a 3-0 victory against the Croats and they also emerged victorious in two friendlies between the sides in 2005 and 2013, keeping clean sheets on each occasion. Portugal are 2.55 to keep another clean sheet against Croatia on Thursday.

Croatia can end that sorry run in Thursday’s match by scoring a goal and avoiding defeat. They showed in Russia that they have a never-say-die attitude and can come from behind, if needs be, to draw on the Algarve. A 1-1 draw on Thursday can be backed at 5.85.

Zlatko Dalic’s team thrashed Argentina 3-0 in Russia and also beat the hosts, Iceland, Nigeria, Denmark and England before eventually losing 4-2 to France in the final, but they only just qualified for the tournament by beating Greece in the play-offs.

It will be interesting to see whether Croatia can continue that momentum in the next few weeks, as they are scheduled to play England and Spain two times in the Nations League before mid-November after the Portugal friendly.