Croatia face a crucial Euro 2012 clash with European and world champions Spain this evening.
The Croats are level with their opponents on points in Group C and know that only a victory will guarantee them passage into the quarter-finals of the competition.
A draw could be enough for both sides to progress depending on the result of Italy’s clash with the Republic of Ireland.
However the Spanish are unlikely to settle for a draw in Gdansk and will be looking to secure a quarter-final place with a victory.
It will be difficult for Slaven Bilic’s men to get the victory that they so desperately want. It won’t be impossible for Bilic’s men though. His side has made a really good impression in their first two games of the Euro’s and won’t want their tournament to end here.
I have to admit that Croatia is one of sides that have most impressed me at Euro 2012. Their victory over Ireland in the first game was achieved in very comfortable style and a draw with Italy was a decent result.
They were always going to be underdogs to Spain and Italy in the group but I have a feeling they may just go through to the quarter-finals.
If Croatia achieve the unthinkable and defeat the Spanish and Italy beat Ireland Spain could go out. That’s an unlikely scenario but we have seen it before at previous tournament and even at this one with favourites going out at the group stage.
It would be a massive shock if Spain were eliminated from the competition but anything can happen in football. The Croatians are certainly a far better side than the Republic of Ireland and won’t be as easy to beat as Spain’s last opponents.
Spain and Barcelona midfielder Xavi has revealed that he believes it will be a “beautiful game for the fans and players”. The Croatians definitely have quality players in their ranks such as Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric and Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic.
The striker is joint-top goalscorer at Euro 2012 with three goals so far this tournament and is hoping to move on this summer. His German club is believed to want to sell the striker but might have second thoughts after his performances so far at the Euro’s.
Mandzukic has already been linked with a move to Premier League Everton, where he could link up with international teammate Nikica Jelavic. The striker is likely to be in-demand this summer.
Croatian boss Slaven Bilic will be leaving his position at the end of this tournament, with his contract expiring this summer. He won’t want his last game in charge of his national team to be a defeat and I’m sure he will do everything in his power to help his country progress to the knockout stages.
Bilic was heavily criticised in his homeland for the country’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. There were even calls for his head from some of the media back home but the Croatian FA believed in the former-West Ham defender and refused to sack Bilic.
The Croatian FA don’t want Bilic to leave his position but it seems that he wants a new challenge this summer. It looks like a return to club management could be on the cards for the highly-rated coach. I’m sure he would love to go out on a high as Croatia boss though.
I think this will be a very tight affair and Spain won’t find Croatia an easy opponent. Should Croatia manage a 2-2 draw with the European champions then they would go through at the expense of the Italians.
I wouldn’t put it past Croatia to get the draw they need to progress. They have looked dangerous on the attack but I don’t think their defence is as watertight as Croat teams of the past. I don’t think they will beat Spain but if they do I think it would open the competition right up.
The way they have played so far Croatia don’t deserve to go home and I hope they get a good enough result to go through to the quarter-finals. Whatever happens though they have given a superb account of themselves and Slaven Bilic can be proud of his teams performances at Euro 2012.
Will Croatia progress into the quarter-finals of Euro 2012?