Preview: Italy and Croatia clash with tournament survival at stake

AP , Monday 24 Jun 2024

Defending champion Italy needs to avoid defeat against neighboring Croatia in their final group game to ensure progress at the European Championship. Croatia can progress with a win, or by avoiding defeat as long as Albania does not beat group-winner Spain in the other Group B game at the same time. Kick-off is at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Monday.

Lovro Majer
(From L) Croatia s midfielder #07 Lovro Majer and Albania s midfielder #21 Kristjan Asllani fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Croatia and Albania at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg on June 19, 2024. AFP

Here’s what to know about the match:

 

Match facts

— Italy has three points after beating Albania 2-1 in its opening game before losing 1-0 to Spain, which is already assured of winning the group. Croatia lost to Spain 3-0 in its opening game, then drew with Albania 2-2 in their second game, leaving both Croatia and Albania with one point. Albania has the better goal difference.

— Though a draw will be enough for Italy’s progression, Luciano Spalletti’s team will be keen to impress after being thoroughly outclassed by Spain in its previous game. Italy only lost by a goal, but the Italian players spent most of the game chasing Spanish shadows and were saved embarrassment by captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

— Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia team is once again led by Real Madrid star Luka Modric, who is yet to score in his fifth tournament appearance.

— Italy lost in its previous and only game in Leipzig, a 1-0 defeat to East Germany in a friendly in April 1982.

— Many of the Croatian players have played in Italy, while Italy coach Luciano Spalletti is familiar with Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Perisic from their time together at Inter Milan between 2017 and 2019. The now 35-year-old Perisic scored 55 goals in 254 games across stints with Inter, winning the Serie A title in 2021 and Coppa Italia the next season.

Team news

— Italy left-back Federico Dimarco is expected to miss the game with a right calf injury sustained in the loss against Spain. Dimarco featured in both of Italy’s games so far.

— Croatia will be without midfielder Nikola Vlacic, who is no longer with the squad because of an injury, while veteran defender Domagoj Vida missed Saturday’s training session with an ankle injury.

By the numbers

— Italy has a poor record against Croatia, winning only one of their previous nine meetings. Croatia won three, while there were five draws. The last three games all finished 1-1.

— Italy’s only win came in the first meeting between the countries, a friendly in Genoa in 1942 that yielded four goals for the home team.

What they’re saying

“I know the Italy coach. They will be well organized. It will be a tough match, but I believe we will rise to the challenge and come out victorious.” – Croatia midfielder Mario Pasalic.

“Croatia are strong. They have experience. In addition to Brozovic, they have many quality players and we will have to be careful. But we will have to play our game with our own strengths, and I’m sure we will cause them problems.” – Italy defender Matteo Darmian.

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