Croatia, Italy in Group B showdown

Vying for second spot in Group B at Euro 2024Croatia and Italy will meet for a Monday night showdown in Leipzig.

While the Azzurri know one point is enough to secure a place in the last 16, their neighbours must win and hope Albania do not beat group winners Spain.

Despite suffering a serious setback on Wednesday – when they conceded a last-gasp goal against Albania to sit on just one point after two Group B fixtures – Croatia can still progress to the knockout rounds of another European Championship.

They will certainly go through to the last 16 if they defeat Italy on Monday and Albania are unable to upset Spain – should the Albanians also win, the pair would be split by means of goal difference.

Defeat would consign the World Cup bronze medallists to an early exit – also a draw and Albania avoiding defeat – as the two teams’ head-to-head record is level after events at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion.

Croatia have already had more shots and more attempts on target at Euro 2024 than they managed across three group games three years ago, but an ageing midfield and misfiring attack has not helped their cause this summer.

As his team have also conceded five goals so far – and face the prospect of failing to win at a major finals for the first time since 2006 – long-serving head coach Zlatko Dalic is left with some tough decisions to make.

Croatia hold the upper hand in terms of precedent: since gaining independence in the 1990s, they are unbeaten in eight games against their Italian counterparts.

Meeting Croatia for the third time at a major tournament – having lost 2-1 at the 2002 World Cup and played out a stalemate at Euro 2012 – Italy are armed with the knowledge that a draw on this occasion will send them through as Group B runners-up.

The reigning European champions could already have booked their place in the last 16, but suffering a 1-0 defeat to Spain last time out leaves the Azzurri in some danger of a disappointing exit.

The onus is on Croatia to come out and attack a fragile Italy team, so the Azzurri may concentrate on absorbing pressure and then striking on the break.

Neither side boast a clinical finisher, so a low-scoring draw could be the final outcome, which would send the Italians through and their Croatian counterparts packing.




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