Euro 2016 is just around the corner, and on the 12th June at 2pm, Turkey take on Croatia at the Parc des Princes, Paris. This may not strike you as one of the big games of Euro 2016, but these are often the matches where the best value can be found.
With Turkey 13th in the Fifa World Rankings, and Croatia a relatively modest 23rd , it would suggest the crescent flag will be waving proudly come the end of the match. But as we all know, statistics don't always tell the full story.
Croatia are one of the smallest Nations to compete in Euro 2016. With a population of just under 5 Million people (as opposed to nearly 75 million for Turkey) you'd think they'd have little chance against their Group D opponents. But despite the disparity between population and ranking, Croatia are a team who produce players of high technical ability. This means they play in a free flowing, possession-conscious manner, rarely giving the ball away and always capable of moments of breathless quality. It was a close call for Croatia to qualify for Euro 2016 however. A surprise 2-0 loss left everything in the balance, and meant the end for Coach Niko Kovac. But new man Ante Cacic steadied the ship, and lead his new team to France, just finishing behind Italy in second place.
With experienced players like Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, Juventus Forward Mario Mandzukic, impressive attacker Ivan Perisic and Real Madrid Creative Midfielder Luka Modric ,Croatia look well capable of making a mark at this Summer's Championships.
Turkey came to Euro 2016 by the skin of their teeth. It was only a late Free Kick by Selcuk Inan against Iceland that secured automatic qualification. Fatih Terim's team have a mixture of experience and youth to choose from, but not many who play for the top teams in Europe. They average a healthy 1.4 Goals per game, and concede at a rate of slightly less than a goal a game.
Amongst the players to look out for are Barcelona's Arda Turan. He was signed from Atletico Madrid in 2015 but has endured a frustrating time due to the Barcelona's transfer embargo. Still the attacking wide midfielder should prove to be a huge asset to Turkey's Euro 2016 hopes. Another to look out for is the ex Arsenal youth player Oguzhan Ozyakup. Signed by Besiktas in 2012 for £500,000, the attacking midfielder has impressed for both club and country. In fact his performances have been so good there's even talk Arsenal buying him back!
Turkey can boast one or two players who, on their day are capable of producing high class performances. In Turan and Ozyakup, they have midfielders who can light up any game, but Croatia have the edge in depth of squad, and definitely fire power up front. With players of the quality of Mandzukic and Nikola Kalinic up top, Croatia may very well have too much for Turkey. Especially with Luka Modric supplying the passes from Midfield.
The ever impressive Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic, is sure to strike fear into the Turkish defensive line in this opening Group D game. With a record 21 International goals in 65 Games, Mandzukic will fancy his chances of adding to that tally on June 12th. So for a cheeky bet that should pay a healthy return, Croatia to Win and Mandzukic to score the opening goal.
As we alluded to earlier, Croatia should be too strong for the Turks given their attacking options. Also we can't really see Turkey troubling the score either, so it looks like a standard 2 nil victory for the skilful Croatian's.
Croatia to be winning at half-time and full-time looks the most likely outcome given the facts and stats for this game. Turkey look short on real top class firepower, Croatia have an impressive blend of dangerous forwards, plus creative midfielders to supply them with the bullets required. We think Croatia will definitely get at least one goal in the first half, then see the job out professionally in the second half.
The Juventus forward is a pivotal figure for both club and country. Mandzukic's impressive record for Croatia is richly deserved and he's sure to be real handful for any opponent at Euro 2016. So for us, he's got to be the outstanding choice to score the first goal of the game. No Turkish players jump out, so the only other candidate is Nikola Kalinic (Croatia). But given Mandzukic's class and experience we feel he's the man to put it in the onion bag first.
Mario Mandzukic is our choice for First Goalscorer as we've said, but how about this as possible bet, Ivan Perisic to score anytime in the match. The Internazionale attacking midfielder has a healthy record of 12 goals in 45 games for the National Team, so must he be a real threat to get his name on the score sheet today.