Croatia v Czech Republic: Dalic's men out to avoid unwanted first and boost Euro 2020 hopes

By Sports Desk June 17, 2021

Croatia face the Czech Republic in Glasgow on Friday aiming to avoid a defeat in their second match of a major tournament for the first time in their history.

Zlatko Dalic's side lost 1-0 to England in their opening Euro 2020 match last weekend and face likely early elimination if results go against them in the second round of Group D games.

The omens are good for Croatia, though, having won six and drawn four of their 10 previous matchday two games at the European Championship and World Cup.

That includes a 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic at Euro 2016, though three points will be the target for the 2018 World Cup runners-up in this latest meeting at Hampden Park.

An improvement will be required from Croatia following their loss to England, which made it eight defeats in their last 14 games.

"We have to do better in attack," Dalic said after the defeat at Wembley. "It won't be easy against the Czech Republic and Scotland, but I'm optimistic.

"Against Belgium and England we didn't win, but we weren't crushed. We need a win to give us confidence. One good win with one or two goals would really open us up."

Croatia could lose three games in a row for only the third time ever, also doing so in June 2006 and March 2021, and they come up against a Czech Republic side in good form.

Jaroslav Silhavy's charges beat Scotland 2-0 in Glasgow thanks to a Patrik Schick double and will be through to the last 16 if they beat Croatia, but the Czech head coach is anticipating a difficult test.

"They have players who like playing the ball, combine and build up attacks from the back," Silhavy said.

"If they have a good day, they will be very tough opponents for us. I still consider them among two favourites of our group and we are the third ones behind."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Croatia – Ante Rebic

A number of Croatia's big-name players failed to show up against England, but Rebic did at least look a threat at times. The Milan winger was the only Croatia player to have more than one shot, albeit failing to score from all three attempts.

Rebic has just three goals in 39 international appearances, scoring from one of his last 31 shots since netting against Argentina at the 2018 World Cup, so an improvement will be required in front of goal.

Czech Republic – Patrik Schick

Schick's double against Scotland included an incredible strike from 49.7 yards, making it the longest-range goal recorded in all European Championship games going back to 1980.

The Bayer Leverkusen forward had five of his side's seven shots on target – the most a Czech Republic player has managed in a match at a major tournament. He has now been involved in 10 goals in his last nine starts for his country.


KEY OPTA FACTS

– The Czech Republic have never beaten Croatia (D2 L1). Their three previous meetings have produced 12 goals, an average of four per game.

– Croatia and the Czech Republic have met once previously at a major tournament – in the group stages of Euro 2016. The game ended 2-2, with the Czechs coming back from 2-0 down to secure their only point of the group phase.

– Croatia have not lost consecutive games at a European Championship tournament since 1996, with those losses coming against Portugal in Nottingham and Germany in Manchester.

– Just one of the Czech Republic's last 19 group-stage games at major tournaments has ended in a draw (W9 L9), with that coming against Croatia at Euro 2016.

– Including games as Czechoslovakia, only twice before have the Czechs won both of their opening two group-stage games at a major international tournament (World Cup 1990 and Euro 2004).

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