Soccer Picks: Iceland vs. Croatia World Cup Playoffs

Nila Amerova

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 10:37 PM GMT

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 10:37 PM GMT

Iceland and Croatia are set to battle for a spot in Brazil 2014. Who will advance to the prestigious finals? Join us as we breakdown the odds and serve up choice soccer picks for your consideration.

Betting odds and background

For the first leg of the tie between Iceland and Croatia, the hosts are listed as the severe underdogs at +300 while visiting Croatia are listed at +100. The draw meanwhile is tipped at +225 at Bet365.

If the odds were to be taken at face value, Croatia would be the smart choice for our sports picks as well as the value one. Do the odds makers have it right? Or can Iceland mastermind the upset?

More likely than not the sportsbooks do have it right. Head-to-head, Iceland falls short of the mark on paper. Ranking at No.46 in the world, they are the lowest ranked playoff contender. As well, Iceland have never seen into the global showpiece, making it to Brazil would be a monumental achievement for the island floating in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Nords fell into a rather lightweight Group E with Norway, Slovenia, Albania, Switzerland and Cypress. As many expected, Switzerland clinched the group convincingly with a 7-3-0 mark and 24 points. Iceland however were a bit of a surprise in second place, eking out Slovenia, who qualified for South Africa 2010 through the playoff format over Russia, by just two points with a 5-2-3 record and 17 points.

Croatia, on the other hand, fell into a tougher group with Belgium, Serbia, Scotland, Wales and FYR Macedonia. Belgium took top spot with a solid 8-2-0 record and 26 points while Croatia took second with a 5-2-3 record and 17 points. Though they did manage to keep their Brazil 2014 hopes alive that they barely did so, two points ahead of their rivals Serbia, meant their campaign was deemed disappointing by those concerned.

What started a promising campaign for Croatia with five wins and a draw, including a gauntlet throwing 2:0 win over Serbia and a 1:1 draw to Belgium on the road, ended on a questionable note. Since June, Croatia have gone without a single victory, taking three defeats and a draw: they lost both fixtures to Scotland, including a 1:0 defeat in Zagreb, and succumbed to a 2:1 defeat to Belgium at home as well.

As a result, Coach Igor Stimac was given his pink slips and Niko Kovac was selected to take over the reins in his stead. That he debuts over Iceland this coming Friday just adds another dimension to Croatia’s topsy-turvy Brazil campaign.

Iceland vs. Croatia betting preview and picks:

Clinching second place in their respective groups was similarly rocky for both teams however Croatia’s case was made more difficult by the quality of their opposition. Now they face a kind draw with Iceland standing in their way to Brazil and one has to like their chances overall, which makes them the correct sportsbook favourites at +100 at Bet365.

Granted the significant drop of form doesn’t help their cause – a dip marked by an inability to score to boot – and that makes it tough to read Croatia’s chances. But with new coach in Niko Kovac to turn to, a former player in Bundesliga and widely respected by his peers and fellow countrymen, Croatia could benefit from a much-needed fresh perspective. Indeed, they have talent and depth and are creative enough in midfield to come together under the new coach and sort their issues, particularly those that pertain to scoring.

Surely, a side that boasts Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic, Eduardo and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, to name a few, can’t continue experiencing scoring issues?  Not when Iceland boasts a conspicuously porous backline that conceded 15 goals (they scored 17 overall) during the group rounds and on two separate occasions allowed four goals – in a 4:4 draw to Switzerland and a 4:2 defeat to Slovenia.

This doesn’t mean that Iceland should be discounted, even if bookies do with hefty +300 soccer odds. Iceland have everything to play for and home advantage to get their bid off the ground on a positive note.  Anything can happen in theory but if things go to plan and to paper Croatia should come through trumps. That’s why we’re plumping down to their attractive +100 soccer odds as our value soccer pick. For a bonus option for your soccer picks, we quite fancy the Over 2.5 at +140 at Bet365 as we think those scoring issues will quickly become a thing of the past.

Soccer Free Picks: Croatia to win outright at +100 and Over 2.5 at +140

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