Euro 2016 Group D: Spain already advancing gives Croatia chance to pinch point
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | June 19, 2016
Croatia v Spain
- Euro 2016 Group C
- Tuesday, June 21st
- Kick-off: 20:00 BST
- Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
- Live on ITV
Blazers battle La Roja in final pool game again
Cast your mind back four years ago, and yes European champions Spain had to play Croatia in their final group game of Euro 2012 en route to retaining their title. That was one of three wins in five previous meetings La Roja have enjoyed in the fixture.
A repeat of the 1-0 Spanish victory as Euro 2016 Group D comes to a close is a 5/1 chance with Coral. Vicente del Bosque’s boys start as 23/20 favourites to win again, but if the manager wishes he can rest players because La Roja are already through to the knockout phase.
Croatia, who haven’t slayed Spain since the days of iconic striker Davor Suker, are 16/5 outsiders for an upset; yet, with Spain surely set to hold something in reserve, a draw at 2/1 could be the best value.
Morata and Nolito nail down markers
While second Spanish pool opponents Turkey were poor, the 3-0 romp allowed some of the fresher faces to tournament football to justify their selections.
Celta Vigo wide star Nolito is a little predictable coming in off the left flank, but that didn’t stop him making the opener before scoring himself. At 6/4 to repeat again anytime, this rumoured Manchester City target is not without merit if somewhat one dimensional.
Morata, meanwhile, helped himself to two against the Turks, yet will be playing up against proper centre halves in the Blazers’ chequerboard pattern. Nifty 9/2 odds say Juventus’ rangy frontman Morata can score first once more.
Battle for midfield mastery most attractive
The allure of this fixture surrounds control of affairs in the engine room. Such is the strength in depth of Croatia in midfield that Barcelona-owned starlet Alen Halilovic didn’t even make the cut for their final Euros roster.
While the curiosities of who made it in to and was left out of Ante Cacic’s squad are a subject of debate, punters should be able to looking forward to seeing other La Liga stars in Blazers blue turning out against their club teammates.
All three of Croatia’s goals at Euro 2016 so far have come from midfield, with Barca playmaker Ivan Rakitic representing the best repeat value at 7/2 anytime.
Winger Ivan Perisic was their leading marksman in qualifying, and is relishing freedom to support Blazers frontman Mario Manduzkic, so is also worth an anytime punt to strike again at odds of 11/4.
Familiar faces make for fascinating fixture
Spain will still have their eyes set on topping the group, so if picking a full-strength side it is more than possible we will see as many as 15 players that were involved in the Euro 2012 meeting with Croatia.
Around half of those could be defenders, and Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos in particular know what it is like to mark Mandzukic in big battles for both club and country.
If one team can match La Roja in the middle, though, then it is the Blazers. Luka Modric and Rakitic are what make El Clasico rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona tick, and it is their insider knowledge of Galactico football and Tiki Taka which ought to prove the greater leveller.