Venue: PGE Arena, Gdansk, Poland
Kick-Off: 19:45 BST
Croatia and Spain come into this game in the knowledge that a 2-2 draw would carry both sides into the Knock-out rounds. However if the other match, between Italy and Republic of Ireland, ends in a draw or the Irish win then Croatia and Spain are through anyway.
Spain’s Sergio Busquets had hurt his foot in the previous match but a scan last week revealed no serious damage and he has been passed fit to play.
Meanwhile, Croatia have doubts about striker Mario Mandzukic who was substituted during the Italy game after he picked up a knock. He will be assessed later today before coach Slaven Bilic names his starting squad.
The winner of this fixture will progress to the next round, it is as simple as that. Three points would claim top spot in Group C and also line up a fixture with the runner-up in England’s group.
However, qualification will depend upon the final score in the Italy game and the loser of this match could still go to the Quarter-Finals.
Croatian coach Bilic has stated that his side are very proud to be representing their country at Euro 2012 and are more than capable of upsetting the odds against the current defending champions.
It is worth remembering that they have twice defeated large opponents at major finals; Italy at the 2002 World Cup and Germany at Euro 2008. They also beat England 3-2 at Wembley in 2007, eliminating the English from the European qualifying group, despite having already qualified for the finals themselves. So Croatia have a reputation for strong underdog performances.
It’s expected that the Croats will start with a 4-1-3-2, allowing Luka Modric to push forward into the attacking positions he occupied against Italy. If Mandzukic isn’t fit for selection then qualifying hero Niko Kranjcar might join Modric in the front line, making for a 4-3-2-1 system or even a 4-3-3 with players either side of Nikica Jelavic.
Spain are a very tough side to beat and haven’t conceded more than once in an international tournament since the 2006 World Cup. Ranked number one in the world, La Roja aren’t going to sit back and let the Italians decide their fate.
Also, Spain haven’t risen to the peak of world football with a series of one-point affairs; of their last 37 competitive fixtures only two have ended in draws – both to Italy.
Manager Vicente del Bosque will most likely stick to the 4-3-3 system that has proven to be very successful over the past few years. His main problem will be who to start as striker, after Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas both scored against the Republic of Ireland.
Croatia have met their opponents in four previous friendly matches, winning only one.
The last team to beat the Croatian team in normal time at a European Championship finals was England, who won 4-2 at Euro 2004.
Croatia have competed in three previous European Championships (1996, 2004 and 2008) and in every tournament have managed four goals in the group stage. At Euro 2012 they currently have four.
In their last 16 competitive matches, Spain have won 15 and drawn one.
Against the Republic of Ireland Xavi broke two UEFA records for a player at the European Championships. The first for most passes attempted (133) and the second for most passes completed (114).
Fernando Torres only notched 38 seconds of time on the ball in his last match, according to UEFA data, but still managed four shots on target and two goals.
CROATIA (4-1-3-2): Pletikosa (GK); Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic; Vukojevic; Rakitic, Modric, Perisic; Mandzukic, Jelavic
SPAIN (4-3-3): Casillas (GK); Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso; David Silva, Torres, Iniesta
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