With Spain and Croatia sat in 1st and 2nd place in the group respectively, there are worries from some quarters that the nations could collude so they are both guaranteed qualification. A 2-2 draw between the two would secure progression for both, although judging by the flair demonstrated in recent outings, it would appear extraordinary bizarre for the two nations to resort to such tactics. Instead, we are more likely to see an attacking masterpiece, with current champions Spain aiming to keep their position at the top of the group against a Croatia side who are renowned as being a real nuisance.
Considering the fact that most people tipped Spain and Italy to progress from Group C, Croatia must be incredibly proud as the nation sit in 2nd place. This comes following a comfortable victory over the Republic of Ireland, followed by a battling draw against the Italians several days ago. This means that, incredibly, Slaven Bilic’s side have not been beaten in a European Championship outing since 2004 – excluding defeat by penalty shootout. That should hold them in good stead against the reigning world champions, as Slaven Bilic looks to end his tenure as Croatia manager on a high.
Spain on the other hand have probably performed worse than many expected, with the Spanish accumulating four points from their opening two games. A lot of people thought that Vicente del Bosque’s side would ride through the group stages with maximum points, yet a draw against Italy in their opening game thwarted such an occurrence. This means that qualification is by no means a foregone conclusion and should they lose to the Croats and see Italy beat the Irish, they will be out of the competition. However, having not lost in their last sixteen competitive outings, defeat certainly seems unlikely.
In terms of team news, Croatia are sweating on the fitness of Mario Mandzukic who was forced to be substituted in the nation’s last game due to injury. The Croats attempted numerous formations in their last clash and it remains to be seen which system Slaven Bilic will start with this time around. Spain meanwhile have a completely fresh squad to choose from, after Sergio Busquets shook off a minor knock that threatened to keep him out of the encounter. Just like their opponents, the Spanish have numerous systems in their arsenal and they could opt to play differently against the Croats this evening.
As for a prediction, our tip is going to be a draw. While Spain may have impressed in their last outing against the Irish, Croatia are much different prospect and we think Slaven Bilic’s men will be able to frustrate their opponents. With that, we’ll predict a 1-1 draw – which would at least work in the favor of Italy.