Croatia vs Spain preview: Underperformers meet in Copenhagen

Luke Bissett
LiveScore
28/06/202108:50
Barcelona youngster Pedri has been influential to Luis Enrique's approach with Spain
Barcelona youngster Pedri has been influential to Luis Enrique's approach with Spain

Round of 16: Croatia vs Spain, kick-off 5pm (UK time, ITV)

Croatia and Spain both came good on matchday three and will look to build on those performances at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

The pair endured extremely flat starts to the tournament, with neither nation kicking into gear until their final group fixture.

Spain finished second in Group E — one they were expected to breeze through — winning only one game and drawing the other two.

Croatia also finished second but were somewhat fortunate to have done so, only sneaking the second automatic place over Czech Republic by virtue of goal difference.

Story so far

Croatia were unfortunate in their opener against England, going down 1-0 at Wembley in a game of few chances.

Zlatko Dalic’s side followed defeat to the Three Lions with a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic in Glasgow.

With everything still to play for in the final group game, Croatia leapfrogged the Czechs and Scotland with a 3-1 win over the Tartan Army.

Spain, meanwhile, opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a stalemate against Sweden in Seville.

Luis Enrique’s side could then only muster a 1-1 draw with Poland in their second group game.

But with an embarassing early exit from the competition staring Spain straight in the face, La Roja emphatically beat Slovakia 5-0 to secure second spot in the group — even finding time to miss a penalty.

Silky Sarabia

Pablo Sarabia was something of a surprise inclusion in Spain's squad
Pablo Sarabia was something of a surprise inclusion in Spain's squad

Pablo Sarabia emerged as the unlikely hero in Spain’s dominant victory over Slovakia last Wednesday.

After coming on as a substitute in both of La Roja’s first two games, Sarabia started as the right winger in Enrique's front three against Slovakia.

The Paris Saint-Germain attacker added the creative spark that had been missing from the side, grabbing himself a goal and an assist.

With Croatia up next, Enrique will look to Sarabia to build on his impressive display and help see Spain into the quarter-finals.

Modric masterclass

Luka Modric was at his devastating best against Scotland
Luka Modric was at his devastating best against Scotland

Going into their group decider with Scotland, Croatia had failed to hit the heights of 2018 when they reached the World Cup final.

Captain Luka Modric — winner of the Golden Ball trophy as the tournament’s best player three years ago — had yet to make his mark.

But the diminutive midfielder put on a show against Scotland.

Already his country’s youngest scorer, Modric became Croatia’s oldest player to score at the Euros when stroking home a delightful finish with the outside of his boot. 

On top of that, the Real Madrid star supplied an assist with a perfectly weighted corner, as well as completing the most (21) passes into the final third.

Dalic will be hoping for more of the same from his captain as he takes on a few familiar faces in the Spanish ranks this evening. 

Pedri praise

One of the few standout stars in Enrique’s side at these European Championship has been Pedri.

The Barcelona midfielder, 18, has played every minute for La Roja, leaving the likes of Thiago Alcantara and Fabian Ruiz warming the bench.

Pedri has covered the most (16.6km) distance of any player and has not looked out of his depth, despite making just a handful of international appearances before the tournament.

Pedri's heat map shows a penchant for drifting out to the left-hand side of midfield
Pedri's heat map shows a penchant for drifting out to the left-hand side of midfield

Looking ahead to tonight's last-16 clash, Pedri anticipates a meeting of similar ideologies.

The Barcelona starlet said: "Both we [Spain] and Croatia want to have the ball. If we don’t, we suffer. 

"It will be a beautiful match and we hope to be able to win.”

Building from the back

It has been quite the month for Spain defender Aymeric Laporte.

After being named in Spain squad for the European Championship, just days after switching his international allegiance from France, the Manchester City man scored his first La Roja goal in the 5-0 win over Slovakia.

He also completed the most (88) passes in the game and made the most 5m+ ball carries (17) out of anyone on the pitch.

With the England centre-backs afforded a lot of time on the ball in their game with Croatia, Laporte will be licking his lips at the prospect of dictating the game from the back.

Tags

European ChampionshipSpainCroatia

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