The first leg of the European playoff matches goes down Friday with good odds for a strong Croatian side as they travel to Iceland with kick at 2pm EST.
After finishing second to an excellent Belgiun side in its qualifying group, Croatia still provided some positive play finishing ahead of rivals Serbia, Scotland, and Wales. The Croats come into today's vital opener with odds of 1.95 to beat Iceland on the road. Earlier in the week, that was higher by about 25 cents but I still really like this pick a lot.
The Croatia double pick (they lead at half and at the end) brings that up to 3.10. The temperature is Three degrees Celcius which, although cold, is not brutal. Croatia went 2-1-2 (W-L-T) on the road during group play, with its only loss coming to Scotland, but it had already qualified for the playoff before that.
The outright draw is at 3.25, while the Iceland victory is currently at 4.20. The team has never qualified for a major tournament and, as nice it would be to see former Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur Gudjohnsen get to an international competition, expect that pattern to continue.
The hosts finished as runners-up in the weakest group in European qualifying. Their record of 5-3-2 was enough to edge out Slovenia, Norway, and Albania, though still losing top spot to Switzerland. They went 3-2-0 at home, but I feel they simply don't have the goods to match up with a team of Croatia's calibre.
Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic is currently offered at 2.20 to score at anytime in the match, while Eduardo offers a little more at 2.75.
I don't anticipate any surprises here and am surprised at the value given to the Croatians. You can also look at Portugal at 1.61 in its highly anticipated match with Sweden, France at 2.30 to beat the Ukraine, and Greece at evens (2.00) to edge out Romania.