Top spot in Euro 2016 Group D is up for grabs as Croatia and Spain clash at the Stade de Bordeaux in their final group stage match on Tuesday evening.
Croatia’s last match was a bad day – both on and off the pitch. The Vatreni were comfortably in front after the first 45, with a decent 2-0 lead over the Czech Republic. By the smoke had cleared – literally – Croatia were reeling after conceding two to throw away all three points. Of course, some stupid fans causing ruckus certainly did not help the team’s cause. But unfortunately, it is what it is.
Still, Ante Čačić’s men are unbeaten thus far, and will definitely be heading to the round of 16. The question is as to whether Croatia will do it as Group D winners or runners-up. The way they shipped two goals after seemingly wrapped up all three points will be a major source of concern – especially considering whom they are facing next.
If one is a Croatia fan, it’s best to look away now: Spain are currently unbeaten in their last 14 matches. The reigning champions, during that run, have picked up 11 wins and just three draws. Furthermore, La Furia Roja have no problems maintaining clean sheets, and are rolling on 700 minutes without conceding a goal.
In addition, Croatia have only beaten Spain in one out of their last five meetings, whilst losing three. To complicate matters even further, two key players are struggling with injury. Luka Modrić is a definite absentee, and Mario Mandžukić could also miss out. Meanwhile, Milan Badelj, Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Strinic and Domagoj Vida are all in danger of being banned if they pick up another yellow card.
Meanwhile, Vicente Del Bosque’s men are already into the round of 16. Spain started out slowly against the Czech Republic, but they hit full stride against Turkey. Alvaro Morata netted his first two Euro goals as they cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win, will definitely start. After losing his place in Juventus’s starting XI, he is looking at other options, and what better way to impress than at this tournament?
Spain has everyone fit and raring to go, and only Sergio Ramos is walking the suspension tightrope. A draw would suffice, but obviously the current Euro champions are seeking a win. Still, Croatia themselves have only lost one of their last eight Euro games, and will not go down without a good fight.
So, in the battle for Group D top spot, will Spain enter the round of 16 on top? Or will Croatia rebound from matchday two with a resounding – and long-awaited victory – over the reigning title-holders?