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Croatia V Spain : UEFA Euro 2012 Match Preview
Published : 18 Jun 2012 14:34:24
Bilic hopes luck will be on his side in Spanish clash
Croatia boss Slaven Bilic is hoping for a bit of luck and a great performance when his side face defending European champions Spain on Monday with top spot in Group C up for grabs at Euro 2012.
Croatia have the unenviable task of trying to halt the rampaging Roja, who hammered Ireland 4-0 at Arena Gdansk on Thursday with Fernando Torres scoring twice as the world champions hit top gear.
A shock win over Spain will see Croatia qualify for the quarter-finals as group winners, while a draw could be enough depending on whether Italy beat Ireland in Poznan, Poland.
For Spain, the task is straight-forward: a draw means qualification and a win ensures first place.
Spanish confidence is high after their star-studded forwards battered the Irish using their 66 percent of ball possession to produce 26 shots on goal, 20 of which were on target, and underdogs Croatia have their work cut out.
With two goals in Croatia's 3-1 win over Ireland and the equaliser against Italy, unwanted Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic is the tournaments' joint top-scorer while defender Ivan Strinic also impressed against the Italians.
But the 24-year-old can expect a busy evening trying to contain Spain's stars whose coach Vicente del Bosque admitted he has a hard time leaving out top names who "don't even know where the bench is".
Having left Barcelona star Cesc Fabregas on the bench and started Chelsea's Fernando Torres, both players ended up scoring against Ireland as Torres netted twice before making way for Fabregas - who also scored their goal in the opening 1-1 draw with Italy.
"We're on our way to qualifying, we need one more point against Croatia and our minds are now on that game," said Torres.
"I know the team we have here, we are playing in the best team in the world, we won the World Cup and Euro 2008, and anyone can play."
Manchester City David Silva is in top form having set up both Torres goals, then scored one of his own leaving Del Bosque to describe the 26-year-old as the "Messi of the Roja," so highly does he rate his creative flair.
Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said a common desire to play good football makes this team a "great" Spanish side.
"Our philosophy is not negotiable," said the 32-year-old.
"We play good football, we don't give the ball away, we're able to open up the pitch, and you saw a great Spain (against Ireland).
"Now it is in our own hands and a win against Croatia would take us through.
"A draw also might be good enough."
Croatia V Spain - view commentary, squad, and statictics of the game live.