Croatia take on Italy in the first game of the second round of fixtures for Group C this evening. The Croats currently top the group after beating the Republic of Ireland 3-1 in their opening fixture whilst Italy and Spain ran out a score draw in the other game.
The Italians had a tough opener in which they only had 34% of the possession but the small amount of the ball they did see they used effectively, managing 11 goal attempts of which 6 were on target – including the goal from Antonio Di Natale to take the lead – the same number as Spain who had 7 more shots than the Italians. The Azzuri will be expected to reverse that in tonight’s fixture given their tournament status but Croatia are coming off of an impressive run of games and a strong start.
Despite taking the lead in the 3rd minute – via Mandzukic – Croatia didn’t dominate the game quite the same as the Italian’s opponents on Sunday, splitting possession 55% to 45% in favour of the Croats. But they did show a more clinical touch in front of goal, putting 3 of their 5 shots on target past Ireland keeper Shay Given. Croatia arrived at the tournament having only lost 3 of their last 20 games and having won their first match will now be looking to extend that impressive run into their last two fixtures.
Croatia are expected to switch to a more conservative tactic tonight with Dario Srna looking likely to be moved from right wing to right back. But there are no new injuries or suspensions.
Italy are still without Andrea Barzagli so Daniele De Rossi will continue filling in at centre back, a role he looked more than accomplished in against Spain. After scoring Italy’s only goal Di Natale could start up front in place of Mario Balottelli, the 22-year-old missed a handful of chances on Sunday night.
Head to head the stats fall in Croatia’s favour, having only met 6 times – always in cup competition – the Eastern European’s have taken the spoils 3 times to Italy’s once with the teams sharing two draws in the 1990’s.
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