Euro 2020 Special

Euro 2020: Croatia vs Spain Round of 16 Match Preview

Croatia will take on Spain in a UEFA Euro 2020 Round of 16 match on June 28 at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

The 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia and the 2010 world champions Spain finished second in their respective groups – Group D and E at Euro 2020. This will be third meeting between the two sides in a major tournament.

This is the sixth time Croatia are appearing in the European Championships and they have qualified for the knockout rounds for the fourth time in their history. However, Croatia have never gone past the first knockout fixture; they were eliminated in the quarter-finals in 1996 and 2008 and the Round of 16 in 2016.

The Round of 16 stage doesn’t bode too well for La Roja either. Following their world domination where they conquered three international tournaments consecutively (Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup, and Euro 2012), Spain have taken several steps backwards. Since then, they’ve been eliminated from the last 16 stage in both Euro 2016 as well as the 2018 World Cup. Luis Enrique’s side has misfired during the group stages this year as well and a similar fate will beckon them if they cannot manage to be more decisive in the final third.


Croatia’s 3-1 victory over Scotland in their last group stage fixture was their first win in five matches. Having played 16 matches over the last nine months, Croatia have won only five times and have lost eight matches.

Croatia began their Euro 2020 campaign with a 1-0 loss to England – this was their first opening-match defeat at the European Championships. Croatia trailed the entire match after Raheem Sterling put England ahead and despite creating a couple of chances, he couldn’t put them away.

They were then surprisingly held to a 1-1 stalemate by the Czech Republic led by Patrik Schick. Schick scored from 12 yards in the 37th minute of the match at Hampden Park but Croatia emerged out of the break strong and Ivan Perisic soon equalised in the 47th minute. Neither side could carve out more meaningful chances in the game.

Croatia’s fate hung in the balance as they took on Scotland in their final Euro 2020 fixture. They began on the front foot with Vlasic putting Croatia ahead in the 17th minute of the match. However, Callum McGregor brought the home side level just before half-time.

Croatian talisman and captain Luka Modric, among Euro 2020’s best XI of round three, then wowed the world with a spectacular outside-the-boot strike from the edge of the box. Long-time Croatian servant Ivan Perisic then extended their lead and became the country’s leading goalscorer in the European Championships.

Form guide (last five matches): W-D-L-L-D


Croatian head coach Zlatko Dalic has 13 survivors from the squad that he led to the final of the World Cup in Moscow. Nine of these players had also taken part in Euro 2016. Dalic has continued to play a compact 4-3-3 in this year’s European Championship and the side depends heavily on Luka Modric in the middle.

Everything begins and ends with the metronome wearing number 10 for Croatia. Modric often drops deep to collect passes from Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida and spreads it towards the full-backs or breaks lines with ease. He’s also decisive in the final third as was evident in the match against Scotland. Marcelo Brozovic offers protection to the backline and also provides runs in the box while Champions League winner Mateo Kovacic is concerned with regulating the tempo of the match.

Ivan Perisic continues to lead the line and Dalic can count on him to supply goals. Both Bruno Petkovic and Andrej Kramaric can be the target man upfront for Croatia and it remains to be seen who starts in the next game while Ante Rebic is a major threat from the flanks.

Croatia Probable Playing XI (4-3-3): Dominik Livakovic, Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Josko Gvardiol, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic, Ante Rebic, Bruno Petkovic, Ivan Perisic


Spain’s form in Euro 2020 can be summed up by their acute lack of decisiveness in the final third and especially in front of goal. The likes of Alvaro Morata, Gerard Moreno, and Pablo Sarabia have been nothing short of frustrating and despite being on the end of several golden chances in the first two matches against Sweden and Poland, they failed to capitalise on them.

It took a 5-0 hammering of Slovakia on the final matchday for Luis Enrique’s side to book their tickets in the Round of 16 stage of the European Championship despite being in one of the easier groups. That was their biggest margin of victory at the Euro finals.

Much of the buzz has been around Barcelona starlet Pedri, who became the youngest Spanish player to appear in a Euro final tournament when he started against Sweden at the age of 18 years and 201 days. Pedri has played out the entirety of the past two fixtures as well and it’s his vision and ability to control the tempo of the match which has created a bulk of the chances for Spain.

If Spain want to progress to the deeper stages of the tournament, their forwards need to seize opportunities better.

Form guide (last five matches): W-D-D-W-D


Manager Luis Enrique has been unwavering about his lineup selection and has continued to back his players despite their lack of form. The case of Alvaro Morata is a prime example. Even in the buildup to the tournament, there was plenty of speculation in the media surrounding Morata’s missing scoring boots. However, Enrique continued to persist with him, both on the pitch as well as in the press conference rooms.

He will be expected to lead the line once again along with Gerard Moreno. Dani Olmo and Pablo Sarabia will battle for another spot up top. In midfield, Spain have Pedri, Sergio Busquets and Koke. Busquets recently returned to the squad following isolation after testing positive for Covid and was a breath of fresh air in the midfield. He dictated proceedings, made transitions smoother and also broke lines with ease.

Jordi Alba on the left flank continues to provide overlapping runs while Aymeric Laporte and Pau Torres are reliable at the back. Cesar Azpilicueta might get the nod over Marcos Llorente at right-back.

Spain Probable Playing XI (4-3-3): Unai Simon, Cesar Azpilicueta, Aymeric Laporte, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba, Koke, Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Pablo Sarabia, Alvaro Morata, Gerard Moreno