Czech Republic v Croatia, Friday June 17
St Etienne, Live on BBC, 5pm
The Czech Republic and Croatia meet in a crunch Group D match in St Etienne on Friday afternoon (BBC1 at 5pm) with Croatia knowing that a win will take them through to the Round of 16. In their opening matches, the Czechs went down to a late Gerard Pique goal, whereas Croatia dominated their game with Turkey but were unable to get the second goal which would have killed the game.
Czech Republic – the story so far
The only positive that the Czech Republic can take from their opening round defeat against Spain was that they’d managed to repel the current holders for 87 minutes until the point when Gerard Pique finally beat goalkeeper Petr Čech. Defensively they had looked fairly solid and well marshalled, and though Spain utterly dominated possession they didn’t create an abundance of clear cut chances. Čech needed to make a number of fairly routine saves and the Czechs will know that they are unlikely to face any other teams in this tournament who will be quite so dominate with the ball.
Against Croatia, Pavel Vrba will know that his side need to be similarly resolute defensively, but this time round will need to offer up something of an attacking threat as well, both to give his team a chance of victory, and to give his defence a well-earned break! The Arsenal midfielder Thomas Rosicky does offer the Czechs a rare bit of quality in the midfield, but it remains to be seen whether his ageing body can cope with two games in four days.
Croatia – the story so far
Croatia opened up their Euro 2016 campaign with a 1-0 win over Turkey, thanks to a wonder strike from Luka Modric. The 1-0 scoreline did not fully reflect the level of dominance Croatia had over the course of 90 minutes, and Dario Srna, Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic all struck the Turkish crossbar – no side has hit the woodwork as often in the tournament so far.
Modric and Barcelona man Ivan Rakitić will look to take control of the midfield, and Croatia will try to dominate the match in the same way that Spain did in their game against the Czech Republic. Croatia do offer more of a direct threat upfront that Spain however. In their first game against Turkey they had 18 shots in total – 8 of them from headers. They will look to knock crosses into the Czech box and in Mario Mandžukić they have a genuine aerial threat. The Czechs will need to prepare for similar aerial bombardment!
Croatia were hugely impressive in their opening match, and the Czech Republic will pose them a similar sort of threat. The worry for the Czechs would be that they go down to an early goal, at which point the floodgates could open. Croatia also have the advantage of an extra day of recovery which could be a big advantage in the midday heat.
- Method of first goal – Header @
- Mario Mandzukic first goalscorer @
- Croatia to win both halves @
- View the full match betting market here!
Euro 2016 Tournament Data widget: