After making a stuttering start at Euro 2020 in Group E, it seems the true Spain has now stepped forth. The 2008 and 2012 European Championship winners appear to have discovered their top form, just in time for the crucial knockout phase of the competition.
Fans were far from impressed when Spain opened their account by drawing 0-0 against Sweden, followed by an equally frustrating 1-1 draw against Poland. As they left La Cartuja Stadium in Seville after both games, many were angered that La Roja were wasting home advantage, critical of what they considered to be sub-par player performances.
Following their emphatic 5-0 thrashing of Slovakia, the side managed by Luis Enrique are considered strong favorites in the latest Croatia v Spain betting, valued at 1.57 odds. By comparison, Croatia have been handed 6.5 odds, suggesting it would be a surprise for them to progress any further at Euro 2020.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 23, 2021
Croatia opened the tournament with a narrow defeat against England at Wembley Stadium, when Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of a game that could have gone either way. After being held 1-1 by the Czech Republic at Hampden Park in their second match, the chances of Croatia progressing to the knockout stage seemed in doubt.
Nevertheless, a fine performance in the final group game saw Croatia beat Scotland 3-1, which included a mesmerizing strike by Luka Modric. The 35-year-old Real Madrid midfielder demonstrated his class and precision, rifling in a shot from distance with the outside of his right boot. For many pundits, this was considered to be the best goal of the group stage.
In addition, the final score was also crucial in Croatia securing second position in Group D, just above the Czech Republic by virtue of goals scored. England comfortably topped the group with their two victories and one draw, while Scotland were eliminated from their first tournament appearance since the 1998 World Cup.
🇨🇿 4 points | +1 GD
🇭🇷 4 points | 0 GD
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) June 22, 2021
Heading into the knockout stage of Euro 2020, regardless of results and performances in the group phase, both Croatia and Spain will be competing in what promises to be an exciting elimination match. Despite being considered underdogs, Croatia should never be underestimated after they reached the 2018 World Cup final.
While many of the best Croatian players are now heading into the twilight of their careers, such as Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic, this is a side packed with quality and experience. That said, facing a resurgent Spanish side will undoubtedly test every ounce of their capabilities, if they are to avoid a premature end to this Euro 2020 adventure.
Spain may no longer boast the stellar talents that won two European Championship titles, plus a World Cup, during a phenomenal golden era between 2008 and 2012. Still, almost a decade on from that period, the next generation of Spanish stars are out to prove they can win this Euro 2020 tournament. Beating the Croatians would certainly underline those ambitions.
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