In a game that will have a massive say in how Group C finishes, Italy are looking to again defy their fractured tournament build-up to overcome a plucky Croatia side
Italy may have performed above expectations in drawing their opening game at Euro 2012 against tournament favourites Spain, but the punters still believe the Azzurri face a tough fight on their hands to reach the knockout stages as an intriguing Group C continues on Thursday [Friday morning Australian time].
The four-time World Cup winners, whose sole European success was way back in 1968, face their key game in the group against the much-improved Croatia, with the winner of this match almost certain to join Spain as the two teams to qualify for the quarter-finals from this group.
Croatia thrashed tournament lightweights Ireland 3-1 in their opening group game but know they have to get at least a draw here to have a chance of going through, given they face Spain in the final round of group matches as Italy will take on Ireland.
The bookies might have installed Italy as favourites for their clash against Croatia at $2.25, with the draw at $3.10 and Croatia at $3.30.
But, according to Luxbet's Andy Scott, the punters see it differently.
"The punters think that Croatia will get the win here," he said.
"The draw has been the next most popular option in the head-to-head market and not many punters think Italy will get up as favourites in this game."
|Back Croatia v Italy in the draw-no bet market at Luxbet at $2.25
||Spain to beat the Republic of Ireland 3-0 in correct score betting at Luxbet at $7|
Italy endured a difficult preparation ahead of Euro 2012 due to a fresh match fixing scandal engulfing Italian football, while they even missed out on a vital warm-up game due to an earthquake.
But they performed well to hold the reigning World and European champions Spain to a draw in the opening game.
But Croatia, who are ranked four places ahead of Italy on the FIFA rankings at No.8, look a team on the rise and their fantastic array of attacking options was on display against Ireland, with Mario Mandzukic scoring twice and Everton star Nikica Jelavic striking again to continue his great season.
Croatia are also yet to lose to Italy in five meetings since their first in 1994, with three of those ending in wins and two of them in draws.
So Croatia definitely look better value at $3.30 at Luxbet in this game than Italy, while the draw is also worth considering.
However, the way to go might be to take Croatia at $2.25 in Luxbet's draw-no bet option, which sees punters receive only $2.25 instead of $3.30 per $1 investment if Croatia wins but also sees them get their stake refunded if the game ends in a draw.
In the other game in the group, it us impossible to see anything but a big win for Spain against hapless Ireland, whose defending was simply not up to this level during their opening 3-1 loss to Croatia.
Spain will be desperate to get their bid to become the first team ever to successfully defend a European title back on track with a win, and are odds-on at $1.23 win, with the draw at $5.50 and Ireland at $12.
Spain remain favourite to win the group at $1.70, with Italy at $3.90, Croatia at $4 and Ireland at $51.