UEFA EURO 2020 - CROATIA VS SCOTLAND PREVIEW
A massive game in Glasgow this evening, with a place in the last 16 being the prize for the winner. Croatia have built a formidable reputation since establishing themselves as an independent nation following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Every competition it seems a new star shines in the famous red and white Croatian ‘chequy’. This year, as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first official international match, will Croatia produce another performance for the ages?
Since playing their first officially recognised international match in 1991 they have reached the semi-finals and final of the FIFA World Cup, in 1998 and 2018. They have also made it to the quarter finals of the UEFA European Championships on two occasions – at EURO 96 and again in 2008.
Croatia have also gifted the game some extraordinary world-class players over the past three decades, like the peerless Robert Prosinecki, their greatest ever striker and current president of the Croatian FA, Davor Suker and the exceptional Zvonimir Boban.
Every competition it seems a new star shines in the famous red and white Croatian ‘chequy’. This year, as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first official international match, will Croatia produce another performance for the ages?
When do Scotland play Croatia
Scotland face Croatia at Hampden Park in the final Group D match in the UEFA European Championships on Tuesday June 22, 2021. Coming hot on the heels of a game against the Czech Republic at Hampden and a meeting with England at Wembley, it all comes down to this final match in Glasgow for a place in the last 16. Kick-off is at 8pm (UK time).
Several questions have been asked of this Croatian squad over the past 12 months, mainly due to a painful showing in the UEFA Nations League. Their 2-1 win over Sweden was their only victory during the campaign and they finished second bottom of their group, narrowly avoiding relegation to League B by one single goal. Croatia also conceded more goals than any other country in that Nations League campaign, a total of 16 in six games. Their woes continued into 2021 and World Cup Qualifying, where they lost their opening game 1-0 away in Slovenia. A five-game winless run finally ended in March with a narrow victory over Cyprus in Croatia, followed by a more convincing 3-0 score line against Malta.
Croatia lost their opening EURO 2020 match with a narrow 1-0 defeat to England. Their first point of the tournament came against the Czechs here at Hampden Park, with Ivan Perisic's thunderous strike cancelling out Patrick Schick's opener, earning his side a 1-1 draw.
EURO 2020 Qualifying
Croatia were a far different side during the EURO 2020 qualifiers and finished as Group E winners, three points ahead of second-placed Wales. They lost one single game, against Hungary, and their run included some emphatic wins, including 4-0 against Slovakia. Bruno Petkovic was their top scorer with four, while Nikola Vlasic and Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic both notched three. Croatia will attempt to rekindle that spark at EURO 2020 this summer and put some of their recent wobbles behind them.
This was the one section we were frightened to highlight. Whisper it, but Scotland are undefeated in international meetings with Croatia. In a total of five games there have been three draws and two victories for Scotland. Those wins came in our two most recent encounters, home and away in the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. Robert Snodgrass scored the only goal in a 1-0 win in Zagreb on June 7 2013. He scored again at Hampden in October that same year, with Steven Naismith grabbing the second in a 2-0 win. However, it was Croatia who ultimately qualified for the plays off in second place behind Belgium in Group A while Scotland finished fourth. The Croats then went on to beat Iceland 2-0 on aggregate in the play offs and book their place at the finals in Brazil.
In the dugout
Zlatko Dalic has been in charge since 2017 and is very popular among his players. He joined a national side that was toiling, had been beaten twice by Scotland and was on the verge of missing out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He soon turned them around and a late rally saw Croatia qualify via the play offs. No one for a second anticipated that Dalic would take his team all the way to the final, where they were beaten 4-2 by France. Real Madrid star Luka Modric shone as the star of that side, being named player of the tournament. Now 35 years of age and with over 130 caps to his name, Modric remains at the heartbeat of this current team. The big question is, can Dalic – with the odds again stacked against him – lead his country to another miracle?
One to watch
This squad has experience with Inter’s Perisic in that 100+ cap club alongside Modric. It also has players who are playing at the world’s top clubs, with Sime Vrsaljko at Atlético Madrid, Mateo Kovacic winning the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea this season and Ante Rebic currently at AC Milan. It would be fair to say that they are still, however, in a transitional period and missing some of the big names who opted to retire last year, like Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic. Some of the new guard have certainly caught the eye over the past season, with Mislav Orsic’s hat-trick putting Tottenham Hotspur out of the Europa League and Dominik Livakovic showing maturity and ability in goal for club and country. The aforementioned Petkovic, their top scorer in qualifying and a hulking, physical presence in attack, will also be one to keep an eye on. The spotlight will, however, be fixed on the masterful Modric, who could perhaps be making his final bow at the UEFA European Championships.
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