Euro 2020 round of 16: Croatia vs. Spain preview, predictions and team news
‘La Roja’ hit five in their last group game but come up against a tough opponent in Copenhagen
Spain secured their place in the last-16 with a 5-0 thrashing of Slovakia - a result which equalled the European Championship all-time record margin of victory.
Luis Enrique’s side had “flattered to deceive” in their first two group E games, says Malik Ouzia of the London Evening Standard. However, they “clicked into gear” against sorry Slovakia to finish second behind group E winners Sweden.
Spain boss Enrique feels “La Roja” are back to being a contender to win Euro 2020, but Croatia will provide a tough test in Copenhagen on Monday, AP reports.
“We are gaining momentum,” he said. “I’m sure that if you ask any of our rivals no one will be happy to have to play against us. Now we get to play against a Croatia team that has great players and plays at a high level. You can’t expect weak teams in the round of 16.”
‘Everything is possible’
At the 2018 Fifa World Cup Croatia impressed as they reached the final, where they lost 4-2 to France. However, just months after their exploits in Russia they suffered their worst ever defeat, 6-0, against their Euro 2020 round of 16 opponents.
Ivica Olić, Croatia’s assistant coach, acknowledges that Spain are “full of confidence”, but he believes “it is a game where there are no favourites, everything is possible”. He added: “It will be 50-50. We need to go game by game. Let’s do this step and see how it goes.”
The winner of this tie will play France or Switzerland in the quarter-finals on Friday 2 July in St Petersburg.
Kick-off time and TV details
The round of 16 clash between Croatia and Spain takes place on Monday 28 June at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark. Kick-off is at 5pm (BST) and the match is live on ITV and ITV Hub.
Croatia team news
Croatia have been dealt a huge blow after winger Ivan Perisic tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss the match against Spain. All other Croatia players and staff tested negative, The Guardian reports.
After deputising for Šime Vrsaljko at right-back, Josip Juranović could keep his place following an impressing display against Scotland, says Uefa.com Croatia reporter Elvir Islamović.
Croatia possible starting XI: Livaković; Juranović (Vrsaljko); Vida, Ćaleta-Car, Gvardiol; Modrić, Brozović, Kovačić; Vlašić; Rebić, Petković
Spain team news
If Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta overcomes a calf problem, why would Luis Enrique change a starting XI that equalled the record for the biggest Euro win last time out, asks Uefa.com Spain reporter Graham Hunter. This would mean the likes of Ferran Torres and Thiago Alcantara starting on the bench.
Spain possible starting XI: Unai Simón; Azpilicueta/Marcos Llorente, Eric García, Laporte, Jordi Alba; Koke, Busquets, Pedri; Gerard Moreno, Morata, Sarabia
Pundit predictions: who will win?
Karl Matchett, The Independent: “Spain to just about edge the match in both possession stakes and the scoreline - but they can’t assume they are back to top gear after a single win. Croatia will make this tough for them. Prediction: Spain 2-1 Croatia.”
Matt Law, SportsMole: “Croatia are more than capable of making this a very difficult match for Spain, and we are expecting a close contest. Aside from the Scotland clash, though, Croatia, who will be missing one of their key players, have struggled to perform this summer, and Spain should have just enough to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition. We say: Croatia 1-2 Spain.”
Joe Short, Radio Times: “Croatia have blown hot and cold so far at Euro 2020 and could suffer against a Spain side that appeared to finally click against Slovakia last time out. Granted, Spain aren’t exactly turning many heads themselves and Croatia have enough firepower to blow any side away. Yet the momentum is certainly with Enrique’s men. This could be a tight encounter similar to the 0-0 draw Spain played out against Sweden in their first group game. But a late winner could well go La Roja’s way. Our prediction: Croatia 0-1 Spain.”
Malik Ouzia, London Evening Standard: “Spain may have thrown off the shackles in beating Slovakia, but their woes in front of goal looked like they would continue as Alvaro Morata missed a penalty and it was only Martin Dubravka’s comical own goal that set the ball rolling. This seems certain to be a cagier affair, with two midfields that like to dominate possession. Spain to win 1-0.”
Steve Luckings, The National: “While they [Croatia] have plenty of quality in midfield in the form of Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Perisic and the evergreen Luka Modric, a lack of quality at the top and bottom end of the field is unlikely to pose Spain many problems. Spain coach Luis Enrique is likely to stick with Alvaro Morata despite the misfiring front-man failing to get on the scoresheet in the 5-0 drubbing of Slovakia. The Juventus striker even saw a penalty saved. Hard to judge either side based on the quality of opposition so far. Prediction: Spain to edge it.”