Toothless Croatia to be exposed by Czech Republic
Group D in this summer's Euros resumes on Friday evening, starting with a clash between Croatia and Czech Republic. The former fell to a 1-0 reverse against FIFA World Cup 2018 semi-final opponents England, with the Three Lions gaining a semblance of revenge for being beaten at that deep stage in the previous major tournament. Meanwhile, their adversaries for a game they probably need to win to avoid at best the lottery of third placed qualification put themselves in pole position by vanquishing Scotland 2-0. Jaroslav Šilhavý's men looked dangerous during that encounter, and could count on the brilliance of Patrick Schick's brace to now put pressure on Vatreni to show far more in attacking areas at Hampden Park than they managed at Wembley. Read our preview here:
Vida la Vida
Despite bossing possession for much of the second half on Saturday, nobody really came out of that narrow defeat to England with their reputation enhanced or even a noteworthy performance. The usually reliable figure of Ivan Perišić wilted in the box, wasting the scant opportunities that fell his way. Ante Rebić, more ostensibly used as a left-sided forward for Serie A giants AC Milan, toiled in the middle against a very ordinary looking back four in white, and could lose his place up top as a result. Elsewhere, far more will be required from the likes of Marcelo Brozović to help ease the burden off talisman and captain Luka Modrić in an XI that seems far too reliant on him to be the jack of all trades with the ball after progressing past the halfway line. The immediately recognisable Domagoj Vida will need to marshal the rest of the backline better than the Tartan Army were able to against the probing of the Czechs' approach play, whilst also being far more of a threat from set pieces in their opponents' box.
A flick and a Schick and the world is his
Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick enjoyed a good goal return during the 2020/2021 campaign, although his tally stalled during the vital run-in where his employers fell into sixth place and with it, a seat at the tertiary table in the form of the Europa Conference League. Against Albania in a friendly and then Scotland much more importantly however, the 25 year old burst into life, and his lob from 50 yards will be difficult to beat in the Goal of the Tournament voting, even at such an early stage. Moreover, his teammates successfully weathered the storm in what was effectively an away match, and will have seen little to fear from Croatia. The West Ham United duo of Vladimír Coufal and Tomáš Souček continued where they left off for the East London outfit, imposing themselves to great effect in the first match, and will look to replicate that against a midfield possibly lacking in confidence,
Cravats are chaffing
Whilst the results on paper from Group D's opening matches weren't necessarily surprising, the manner of them was. In truth, Croatia have been poor for a couple of years now, and a stunning reversal from Zlatko Dalić and his players is required, without the requisite firepower to match that ambition. bet365 have odds of 3.50 for another Czech Republic win that would all but seal passage through to the last 16 with a game to spare.
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