Here’s the pre-game thoughts of the Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic. His preparations have been disrupted by Ivan Perisic’s positive Covid test, which rules him out.
“It’s hard for Ivan but we have to adapt. Ivan will be our biggest fan and God willing, he will join us in seven or eight days. “We were shocked by Perisic’s positive result, but we have been living with the stress of this possibility for a month. We are used to it.”
“We have a big number of players in this position. We will decide on a player who is a natural there, but I believe any of them can do well.” On the match itself, he said: “we need to win, to play a good game and be offensive. If we just defend we will not achieve anything.”
Pre-match reading: Sid Lowe chats with Aymeric Laporte, the France-born defender who has taken dual nationality in order to play for Spain. If he helps La Roja through today, their likely quarter-final opponents will be … France.
“Luis Enrique told me my playing style is his idea of football, that if I got nationality I might be in the squad,” Laporte says. “We talked and I told him that obviously it’s very important for me … I’m not saying France didn’t want me, but I’m grateful to those that ‘bet’ on me. Spain did and I’m trying to return that faith.”
Euro 2020’s long, winding path to Wembley allows teams to take their time, settle in and play their way into form. That said, Croatia and Spain both took liberties with the slow-burn format. Both got a decent way into their third games without leaving second gear, and risked drifting out of the competition with a collective shrug.
When the heat was on we got a sense of what these teams can really do, with Spain’s forwards finding fluency against Slovakia, and Croatia taking an icy grip on proceedings at Hampden Park. That focus must be maintained today, because whatever happens one of these teams will join the Netherlands and Portugal in the departure lounge.
Like many other teams in this tournament, Croatia and Spain are trying to blend youth and experience, moving on from “golden generations” while still leaning on their old stagers every now and then. If either can get the balance right, they could still go much further – but time is running out. Kick-off is at 5pm BST, 6pm local.
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