Both Croatia and Scotland will be pushing for qualification to the knockout stages of the UEFA Euro 2020 when they face off in a Group D encounter this week.
We are in the final phase of the group stages of the UEFA Euro 2020, with the fate of the four teams in Group D set to be decided on Tuesday night. While leaders Czech Republic clash against second-placed England, Croatia and Scotland are set to battle it out at Hampden Park at the same time, with everything to play for.
Croatia have found it a bit tough to get going in the European Championships and, as a result, are third in the group, with just one point from two games, following a 1-0 defeat to England and a 1-1 draw against Czech Republic. However, Zlatko Dalic’s men are still within a shot of making it through the knockouts, should they pick up a win on Wednesday night, although their final position will hinge on what happens in the other game. A draw, however, will not be enough.
As for Scotland, they began their tournament with a disappointing 2-0 defeat against Czech Republic. But the Tartan Army fought back hard to hold England to a goalless draw last time out, which keeps them alive, despite being at the bottom. A win would see them go through at least as one of the best-placed third teams or even second but a draw would be of no help for Steve Clarke & co.
The last time Croatia and Scotland clashed was in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 2013 with the latter picking up a 2-0 win. And ahead of their latest meeting at Hampden Park this Tuesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
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Croatia are set to be without the services of left-back Borna Barisic yet again on Tuesday as he continues his recovery from an injury. Apart from the Rangers defender, Zlatko Dalic does not have any other concerns heading into this do-or-die contest in Glasgow.
The manager is expected to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation without any major changes in personnel to the side that was held to a draw by Czech Republic last time out. In goal, there is no looking past 23-cap veteran Dominik Livakovic, who will be protected by the centre-back partnership of Domagoj Vida and Dejan Lovren, despite the latter’s poor display last time out, although Duje Caleta-Car is also an option.
Sime Vrsaljko is a certainty at right-back, where he is likely to have his hands full dealing with the marauding Scotland captain Andy Robertson. On the left, youngster Josko Gvardiol, who has given quite a good account of himself thus far, should slot in as a left-back yet again.
With Croatia needing a win, they need Luka Modric to be as high up as possible, so that, he can pull the strings in the final third, which is why the Real Madrid superstar could move into the No. 10 role on Tuesday even as Marcelo Brozovic returns to the side to form the double pivot alongside Mateo Kovacic. Although, one mustn’t be surprised if the latter, too, finds himself pushing high up the pitch at every possible occasion.
Higher up the pitch, Bruno Petkovic looked good after coming on as a substitute against Czech Republic and needs to start as the lone centre-forward for Croatia. The 26-year-old will be supported from the flanks by Ivan Perisic, who was on target in the last game, and Ante Rebic, who will need to step up after a couple of underwhelming displays. Andrej Kramaric, Josip Brekalo will be options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Livakovic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Gvardiol; Brozovic, Kovacic; Perisic, Modric, Rebic; Petkovic
Scotland have been dealt a fresh blow heading into this must-win clash as Billy Gilmour, who was the star of the show against England last time out, has been ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus. No other casualties for manager Steve Clarke to contend with as he gears up for the monumental clash at Hampden Park.
The Tartan Army should line up in the 3-5-2 setup once again on Tuesday night with David Marshall manning the goal yet again. There could, however, be a change in the three-man defensive unit with Jack Hendry likely to return to the lineup to pair up alongside Grant Hanley and Kieran Tierney against the Croatians.
Hendry’s return would allow Scott McTominay, who played in defence last time out, to move into his natural habitat in the centre of the park from where he can keep a special watch on Luka Modric. The Manchester United ace will be supported by Celtic’s hardworking midfielder Callum McGregor and John McGinn, who will likely have the onus of providing the forward impetus from the centre.
The chief creative outlets for Scotland, though, will be the two wing-backs in Stephen O’Donnell and captain Andrew Robertson, with the latter in particular carrying a major threat with his precise deliveries into the box. Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes ought to be the two centre-forwards hoping to get on the end those crisp crosses from Robertson.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Marshall; Hendry, Hanley, Tierney; O’Donnell, McGinn, McTominay, McGregor, Robertson; Dykes, Adams
- In their five meetings against Croatia in the past, Scotland have never lost a single game (W2 D3), winning their most recent fixtures against the Vatreni.
- Croatia have failed to win any of their last four matches, losing and drawing a couple each. They have not kept a single clean sheet during this wretched run.
- Scotland, meanwhile, have lost just one of their last seven matches, although there have been just two wins (D4).
Player in Focus
Luka Modric (Croatia)
The man who was the driving force behind Croatia’s shock run to the finals of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia has not been able to make the same kind of impact this time out. After a gruelling campaign with Real Madrid, Modric, at 35, hasn’t been able to bring his best, which in turn has had an impact on his team’s creativity going forward.
With Croatia needing a win to stand a chance of going through to the knockouts, they will look up to their best player to step up and deliver at a crunch moment. If he gets going, the veteran midfielder has what it takes to unlock a rigid Scottish defence and create chances for his teammates to convert.
Scott McTominay (Scotland)
??????? Scott McTominay is ready for the final group match against Croatia ? [IG: scottmctominay] pic.twitter.com/66LmlUbo0h
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With Billy Gilmour ruled out of the contest, Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay is expected to return to the middle of the park after playing as a centre-back in the last game against England. A workhorse in the centre, the 24-year-old has that bite and doggedness that will be needed to take Modric out of the game.
McTominay has done the job on a number of players in midfield in the past while playing for Manchester United. And, he will need to do it again in a monumental clash for his national team. Keep Modric quiet and the battle may be half won for Steve Clarke & co.
Croatia 2-1 Scotland
Two teams that are not entirely known for their goalscoring pedigree – Croatia have scored just one so far in the Euros while Scotland are yet to open their account – will be aware that they will need to go all-out in search of a win to stand a chance of going through to the next round. This could lead to an open encounter with chances in plenty.
Croatia, though, might just be able to clinch it at Hampden Park on Tuesday, owing to their experience in crunch situations like these in the past, something that the Scottish time hasn’t experienced. The Hard Tackle predicts the Vatreni to secure a hard-fought win to progress through to the next stage of the competition.