The first potential banger of Euro 2020 comes in the form of England vs. Croatia on Sunday morning.

The rematch of a 2018 World Cup semifinal will feature plenty of new faces, mostly on one side of the pitch. The Croatians return a very similar squad full of accomplished talent at the club level that reached new highs in Russia three years ago.

Let’s break down the betting value in what should be a cracking matchup full of impressive talent.

England Enter With Stacked Attack

On paper, England’s only problem is having too much talent, especially in attack.

Harry Kane is going to start at center forward with Dominic Calvert-Lewin providing cover, an impressive duo coming off strong club seasons. In the creative positions, there’s a gluttony of talent: Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka. That doesn’t include Mason Mount, whose best position is likely behind a striker in a No. 10 role.

Since the return of international play last September, England have won pretty much every game they should have. Gareth Southgate’s men have 10 wins, one draw and two losses during that span. They lost to and drew Denmark and lost to Belgium. In five games since the start of 2021, England have beaten Iceland, San Marino, Albania, Poland, Austria and Romania.

The concern with England, despite their impressive wealth of talent, is that they haven’t actually gotten many games together because of their youth. The problem would have been the same if this tournament was last year. While very talented, a lot of these players are unfamiliar with each other.

Croatians Remain Mostly Unchanged From 2018

That is not a problem with Croatia, a country that is likely to field a starting XI extremely similar to the 2018 World Cup.

There will be two big changes for the Croatians in this tournament compared to 2018. In goal, Dominik Livakovic has taken over, and former Barcelona standout Ivan Rakitic retired from international play last September.

Also, in defense, it appears Duje Caleta-Car has taken Dejan Lovren’s spot in the Croatians’ best XI.

Otherwise, it’s mostly the same faces that made a thrilling run to the World Cup final in Russia.

Luka Modric is still the captain and engine of the team. He will serve as a dynamic link between the midfield and attack, requiring attention at all time because of his passing ability and lethal runs into the 18-yard box. Marcelo Brozovic will do the dirty work in midfield and likely be next to Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic.

Andrej Kramaric will likely serve as the starting center forward with Ivan Perisic out left, and 22-year-old Josip Brekalo appears poised for a big role after a very strong campaign for Wolfsburg.

Croatia do not have the depth of England, but the quality and experience are there. These players know their teammates’ tendencies extremely well and will function as a unit under head coach Zlatko Dalic.

Betting Analysis & Pick

This game is going to be a home game for England at Wembley Stadium, as will the English’s other two group-stage games.

England’s expected goals numbers were extremely underwhelming throughout qualifying. Again, I think that comes down to a lack of experience playing together. Maybe it clicks on this massive stage, and a win is not out of the realm of possibility. I just don’t see it being extremely convincing, especially against the Croatians.

While England won seven of their eight qualifying games and Croatia just five, the Croatians averaged 1.98 xG per game in their group and England just 1.84

The Action Network’s BJ Cunningham projects Croatia as a +491 underdog, so there’s little value on picking them to get all three points. Where I see value is simply for them to get a result.

Croatia +0.5  so all we need is for them to spoil the English’s party. I see England having plenty of the ball, but the Croatians know how to keep Kane in check, as they did in the 2018 World Cup semifinal (it should be noted that isn’t the only big game in which Kane has gone completely missing), and I expect them to deliver a composed performance to start the tournament.

The England line continues to rise in the build-up to this game, so bettors might want to wait as late as they can to see what the best number they can get is.

Pick: Croatia +0.5 (+138)

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