Group D will come to a blockbuster conclusion as the two top performers Croatia and Spain face-off for the top spot at the Stade Matmut-Atlantique. This Euro 2016 group clash will be played on Tuesday, June 21.
Croatia were one of the favorites to progress through the group and they started the tournament justifying these expectations. A 1-0 win against Turkey started their tournament on a positive note courtesy a Luka Modric stunner. Although the score line barely suggests it, the Croats were under complete control of this match and could have won by a bigger margin. This confidence showed in their second game against Czech Republic where the dynamic duo of Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic put them ahead by a couple of goals. Even when the Czechs pulled one goal back did the result look in doubt for Croatia but Modric’s injury followed by crowd disturbance effected their concentration eventually helping the Czechs claw back for a point.
Croatia deserved full points from that game which could have sealed their progress to knockouts. They now sit second in the group on four points and face Spain with the prospect of missing out on automatic qualification. There could be a potential tiebreaker penalty shootout scenario too – if both Spain and Czech Republic win by 1-0.
Spain have no such worries ahead of the final game as their passage to knockouts is already confirmed. With six points in their kitty, Spain top the table and will remain there if they avoid defeat against Croatia. Just a week ago, their performance in the group opener against Czech Republic didn’t enthuse the same confidence. A late piece of sorcery from the midfield maestro Andres Iniesta helped Gerard Pique win the game for Spain. Although they mastered possession, Spain showed little enterprise in converting the chances casting doubts on their strikers. All these doubts were put to bed in their game against Turkey. The total dominance of possession was accentuated by two goals from Alvaro Morata and one from Nolito putting the game beyond Turkey’s reach.
With the confidence back for its strikers, Spain would be a difficult proposition for Croatia. This game promises to be an exciting midfield duel unless Vicente Del Bosque decides to rest his regulars. Even without Modric, the ensemble cast for this key clash looks all set to decide the result.
Croatia come into this match on the back of very good form having lost only once in their last ten encounters. They have won seven of these games and should be fairly confident ahead of this crucial clash. The loss of Modric is a blow but they have enough quality in their ranks to cover up.
Spain are in great form too with just one loss in their past ten encounters that has seen them notch seven victories. With the questions on their strikers’ ability brushed aside emphatically, Spain could be set to continue their domination.
Key players and team news
The absence of Modric opens the door for Mateo Kovacic to slot straight into the starting XI. The efficiency of the midfield masked the glaring ineffectiveness of Mario Mandzukic who could be under pressure for better output.
Spain could opt to rest Sergio Ramos who is under an yellow card while there could be some shuffling in the midfield with Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva up for rotation. Watch out for Morata who seems to have found his mojo back.
Croatia’s recent goal scoring record makes good reading with 24 goals from their last nine encounters, during which they are unbeaten. They have also let in only five goals which speaks volumes of their defensive capabilities. But keeping the Spanish armada quiet will be a huge task for them.
Spain scored a goal in eight of their previous ten encounters while keeping a clean sheet in six of them. They have won three and lost just once in five meetings with Croatia.
Back both teams to fight for a win which means there could be goals from both the sides. With the probability of many first team regulars sitting out, this game could end with honors even.
Draw at odds of 3.0 with Betfred.