Croatia will be aiming to salvage their fortunes in Group D when they take on Czech Republic on Friday at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
A disappointing 1-0 defeat to England has raised question marks over Croatia’s quality in the ongoing European Championship. The 2018 World Cup finalists were far from competent and now run the risk of potentially bowing out of the top two contention in Group D as they take on the Czech Republic on Friday.
It is a must-win game for Zlatko Dalic’s men, especially following Czechia’s win over Scotland in the opening fixture. However, Croatia should have an easy path to the knockout stages if they can secure all three points, knowing their opposition play England in the final matchday while they lock horns with tournament minnows Scotland.
Czech Republic, however, are not an opposition to be taken lightly, as they showed in the opening matchday. They were not exactly dominant against the Scottish team but showcased excellent attacking prowess and the defensive solidity that could trouble the Croatia team.
The win over Scotland also saw one of Euro’s best ever goals when Patrik Schick found the back of the net from over 50 yards. The spirits, therefore, will be high in Czechia camp while their opponents are licking their wounds from the disappointing defeat to England.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this crucial Group D encounter at Hampden Park on Friday.
Team News & Tactics
Following the poor performance against England, Zlatko Dalic will be tempted to make changes to his side in this highly important clash in Glasgow.
The 54-year-old already raised a few eyebrows with his decision to start Andrej Kramaric out wide in the last game. However, he will look to revert that decision by unleashing him in the number ten role, allowing Ante Rebic to operate in his favoured left-wing slot.
Dalic is also expected to revert to a 4-2-3-1 to add more attacking impetus to the side that lacked ideas against England. However, the wide attacking trifecta of Josip Brekalo, Rebic and Ivan Perisic all like to operate from the left flank, so we might once again witness Luka Modric occupying the attacking midfield position.
It essentially means that Perisic may have to settle for a place on the bench, paving the way for Brekalo to start on the right flank while Modric’s presence in the attacking midfield should see Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic continue in the double-pivot, hoping to control the proceedings with their passing and distribution.
In defence, Croatia will be boosted by the return of Dejan Lovren, who has been given the green light following a positive MRI scan on his knee problem.
The former Liverpool centre-back should slot in right back into the central defensive position alongside Domagoj Vida, at the expense of Duje Caleta-Car. Elsewhere, Sime Vrsaljko remains a guaranteed starter at right-back while Josko Gvardiol, who looked shaky against England, might once again have to operate at left-back due to the injury of Borna Barisic.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Livakovic; Vrsaljko, Vida, Lovren, Gvardiol; Brozovic, Kovacic; Brekalo, Modric, Rebic; Kramaric
In contrast, Czech Republic head coach Jaroslav Silhavy has no reason to tinker with the 4-2-3-1 setup that remained sturdy in the opening game against Scotland.
Patrik Schick led the line extremely well and should continue to spearhead the attack, with the help of two probing wingers in Lukas Masopust and Jakub Jankto, although Silhavy can certainly experiment with the number of exciting he has on the bench, including the incredibly talented Adam Hlozek.
Otherwise, Vladimir Darida is set to occupy the number ten/number six hybrid position that sees him play a vital role in the second line of press. His remarkable work ethic and commitment should tune in well with the central midfield duo of Tomas Soucek and Alex Kral.
These three midfielders are capable of not only offering stability in the middle of the park but can also disrupt the flow of the opposition with their tackling prowess. Their ability to win back possession often lead to useful turnovers as well.
Defensively, Tomas Vaclik should once again play a key role in between the sticks, but the onus will be on the back four, consisting of Vladimir Coufal, Tomas Kalas, Ondrej Celustka and Jan Boril to offer the solidity up against the Croatia side desperate to make amends after a disappointing start to the tournament.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Vaclik; Coufal, Kalas, Celustka, Boril; Soucek, Kral; Masopust, Darida, Jankto; Schick
Czech Republic: WWLLD
- Croatia and Czech Republic have met only thrice before, on the international stage, with Czechia still yet to win against Hrvatska, though they have drawn two of the three matches.
- Czech Republic have showcased impressive form heading into this tournament, securing five wins in their last eight international matches.
- Croatia are on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to recent form, with Zlatko Dalic & co. winning just two of their last ten matches (D2 L6).
Players in Focus
Andrej Kramaric (Croatia)
Croatia have a number of star players who can change the complexion of the game using their individual quality. However, none will perhaps be as important as Andrej Kramaric as he returns to spearhead the Hrvatska attack after being deployed out wide in the game against England.
A former member of the Leicester City squad, Kramaric is certainly the star forward for Croatia, having netted 20 goals in the recent Bundesliga campaign. However, he will need to replicate those performances against Czech Republic if Zlatko Dalic’s men are to have any hopes of reaching the next round.
Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)
If one was not enough, this particular game offers another Bundesliga striker who is expected to play a key role for his respective team, in Patrik Schick. The Bayer Leverkusen star made quite an impact in the opening round, securing a brace against Scotland, including a wonder goal from 50 yards.
Schick was not as successful in the recent Bundesliga campaign, netting only nine goals. However, he has certainly been able to showcase his talents in the early round of the European Championship. His exploits in front of goal will be required once again as Czech Republic hope to secure their place in the Round of 16.
Croatia 1-1 Czech Republic
This Croatia team is nothing more than a weakened remnant of the one that reached the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The team clearly lacks the presence of a proper attacker who can penetrate the offensive lines, while the defence is one of the weakest in the competition.
Czech Republic, in contrast, are punching above their weight thanks to their newfound solidity in midfield and defence. As such, we expect Jaroslav Silhavy’s men to successfully contain the Croatia side and seal a valuable point that could go a long way in helping them secure qualification to the knockout stages.