Verdict: Spain win
Best Odds: 7/10
With a spot in the quarter-finals of this summer’s European Championships up for grabs on Monday evening, Spain and Croatia will face off in Copenhagen.
Starting with Croatia, while they might have struggled to find their best form over the summer, The Blazers did sign off their Group D campaign with a much-needed victory on foreign soil. Putting in what was a largely dominant display at Hampden and more than deserving of their 3-1 victory last week, Zlatko Dalić’s men will be desperate to build off of that result as they open their knockout stage run on Monday evening. Although the 2018 World Cup finalists might have ended their woeful run of form last time out, Croatia have drastically struggled to match their success out in Russia three years ago. Failing to gain any momentum heading into this summer’s delayed tournament with a pair of lacklustre showings against both Armenia and Belgium, Dalić’s side have won just three of their last 12 matchups across all formats, a run that stems back to October.
Putting in a Man of the Match display last time out against Scotland, Luka Modric will be joined by both Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic in midfield.
However, in a real blow for Croatia, Ivan Perišić will miss out on Monday evening after returning to a positive COVID-19 test.
As for Spain, after failing to lay down much of a marker in both of their opening Group E matchups, La Roja find themselves in a very similar situation to Monday’s opponents. Eventually having to settle for a second-place finish after playing out back-to-back stalemates against Sweden and Poland, the former world champions managed to land a much-needed boost last week. Putting in what was a rampant display on home soil, Luis Enrique’s side picked up a 5-0 win against Slovakia, by far their best performance of the summer. Gaining a reputation under the former Barcelona boss for their inconsistencies in the final third, Spain have at least managed to show some continued resolve at the back. Aside from watching Poland breach their defence on June 19th, the European giants have conceded just a single goal in over 450 minutes of action.
Pau Torres could be set for a recall to Luis Enrique’s starting XI and looks likely to replace Eric Garcia at the heart of their defence.
Despite putting in a string of questionable performances this summer, Alvaro Morata is likely to get the nod and lead the line on Monday.
Key Factors to Consider
- Croatia last faced Spain in any competition during the 2018-19 Uefa Nations League. While the Croatians won the most recent of those two meetings (3-2 in November 2018), they lost the other 6-0 in September 2018, a result that remains their heaviest ever defeat in international football.
- In what is their sixth European Championship tournament, Croatia have made it through to the knockout stages for a fourth time.
- Croatia have failed to progress beyond the first knockout game on each of the previous three occasions (quarter-final in 1996 and 2008 and last 16 in 2016).
- After winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, Spain have since been eliminated from both of their last two major tournament knockout round matches: the last 16 of Euro 2016 (v Italy) and the 2018 World Cup (v Russia).
- Spain last suffered elimination in three consecutive knockout stage participations when doing so across the 1994 World Cup, Euro 1996 and Euro 2000.
While Spain might have failed to find much stability over the summer, there is no doubt that they will be hugely boosted by that stunning display last week. Breezing past Slovakia thanks to a 5-0 win when signing off their Group E campaign, Luis Enrique’s side should be confident of extending on their European adventure on Monday evening. Handing The Blazers an infamous 6-0 drumming back in 2018, Croatia have also shown a host of issues since their exploits out in Russia three years ago. Despite picking up that much-needed 3-1 win against Scotland last time out, that was only the third victory in their previous 12 matchups across all formats.
Verdict: Spain win
Best Odds: 7/10
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