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Euro 2012 Predictions and Preview: Croatia vs Spain

Group Elimination C: Monday, 18 June 2012 - Gdansk - PGE Arena

Spain the defending champions take on Croatia in Gdansk in a pivotal Group C game.

Both sides are two points clear of Italy, who face the Republic of Ireland in the other pool game.

The Irish have already been eliminated after two defeats.

"I think it is going to be a beautiful game for the fans and for the players," the Barcelona midfielder said.

"They will have to go all out and so will we.

"We depend on ourselves to qualify and we will try to win and be first of our group.

"However, Croatia are very good, they have a fantastic team, with great individual talent.

"I don't expect an easy game."

There are fears amongst Italian fans that the encounter could end in a 2-2 draw, a result that would see Croatia join Spain in the next round at the expense of the Azzurri.

"Absolutely not," Xavi said.

"We only know how to play attacking football so a draw would not suit us.

"We will go out determined to hold possession, to move the ball and to go forward.

"This is our style of game and the one that made us European and world champions.

"Our aim is always to go out for victory and against Croatia it will be no exception.

"We will play to get three points from the first minute until the last."

Spain, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Italy in their group opener, already displayed that attacking flair in a 4-0 triumph over Ireland on Thursday.

"We have the same hunger that we had in Euro 2008 and at the 2010 World Cup," Xavi said.

"We are among the favourites and we have the possibility to make history and win another Euro title.

"But we know that only through hard work and humility that will be possible."

Fernando Torres is set to lead Spain's attack for the second consecutive game with the Chelsea striker having scored twice against Ireland.

Rivals Croatia face Spain for the first time in a major competition and coach Slaven Bilic knows his side will have to step up their game.

The Croats beat Ireland before holding Italy to a 1-1 draw on Thursday.

"We will need to play the best game of our lives," said Bilic, whose side hope to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for the second straight time.

"We must be concentrated for 90 minutes.

"We have to work as a team and we are going to have to take our chances."

Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric will play in support of striker Mario Mandzukic, who is the joint-top scorer of the competition with three goals.

Spain will be at full strength with midfielder Sergio Busquets having recovered from a minor foot injury.

Predictions: Spain 3-0 Croatia

Still needing a win to guarantee their own progress, Spain the defending champions will be at their exquisite best, and Croatia will be praying for a miracle from Ireland to progress.

Euro Cup 2012 Highlights: Navas Comes Up Big in Spain’s 1-0 Victory Over Croatia

Defending champions Spain will be back in it again after qualifying for the Euro 2012 quarter-finals after replacement Jesus Navas hit the late winner in their nervy 1-0 victory over Croatia, who bowed out.

Spain qualify as Group C winners and will now play their quarter-final in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Saturday against the Group D runner-up, while Italy finish second thanks to their 2-0 win over Ireland in Poznan.

Having come on for Fernando Torres in the second-half, Navas hit the 88th-minute winner after Xavi Hernandez chipped the Croatian defence and Andres Iniesta provided the final pass.

"It was a difficult game for us, we had a high percentage of ball possession and we proved we can control the game," said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque.

"We were fighting for a victory, not a draw, and we have taken a step forward here by qualifying, this is motivation for the quarter-finals.

"The team played well, even though things didn't go according to plan.

"We have no preference whether it is France, England or Ukraine, we have to be ready to take whatever comes."

The World Cup winners top the group with seven points after their opening draw with Italy and 4-0 rout of Ireland, while there was heartbreak for Slaven Bilic's Croatia.

"I want to congratulate Spain, but most of all, also my players," said the former West Ham and Everton defender.

"We had the best chances in the game and when you play against the world champions, you must take advantage of those opportunities."

Del Bosque named an unchanged team, while Bilic abandoned the 4-4-2 formation he used in the opening win over Ireland and the draw with Italy for a 4-2-3-1 formation.

As they had done in Thursday's hammering of Ireland here, Spain started with almost 80 percent ball possession, which never dropped below 60, as Croatia seemed content to hit long balls down to lone striker Mario Mandzukic.

On a rare early forage into the Spanish half, Danijel Pranjic fired a shot to the left of Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who dealt with the left-footed shot comfortably on 25 minutes.

Croatia defender Vedran Corluka was booked for dissent soon after as German referee Wolfgang Stark chose not to award a penalty after Spain's Sergio Ramos sliding tackle caught Mandzukic's ankle.

It remained goalless at the break and news of Italy's lead against Ireland raised the tension inside the Gdansk stadium as the second half wore on.

Croatia's best chance came approaching the hour mark when Luka Modric's cross was met by Ivan Rakitic, but Casillas parried away his header.

After a fairly ineffective first 60 minutes, Torres made way for Navas in the three-man forward line, but both sides squandered chances.

With time almost up, the decisive blow came when Hernandez floated his pass over the defence for his Barcelona team-mate Iniesta to draw Croatia's goalkeeper Stipe Pleitkosa and then feed Navas who made no mistake.

EURO 2012: Croatia vs Spain Timeline

  • 90+4' - The match has come to a close in Gdansk. The final score is 0-1.
  • 90+3' - Croatia's Ivan Rakitic has been booked in Gdansk.
  • 90+1' - Nikica Jelavic (Croatia) gets a yellow card.
  • 90' - Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) has received a first yellow card.
  • 90' - In Gdansk Spain's Alvaro Negredo is caught offside.
  • 90' - Wolfgang Stark will wait an extra 4 minutes before blowing the whistle to end the Second half.
  • 89' - Spain make their Third substitution with Alvaro Negredo replacing Xavi.
  • 88' - Goal! Jesus Navas gives Spain a 0-1 lead.
  • 88' - Great play from Andres Iniesta to set up the goal.
  • 86' - Vedran Corluka (Croatia) gets up for a header but cannot keep the ball on target.
  • 86' - In Gdansk Ivan Rakitic for Croatia takes a corner from the Left-hand flag.
  • 85' - Jesus Navas for Spain drives towards goal at PGE Arena Gdansk. But the finish is unsuccessful.
  • 84' - Spain have been awarded a corner by Wolfgang Stark. Xavi steps up to take it.
  • 84' - Spain drive forward and Andres Iniesta gets in a shot. Without netting, however.
  • 81' - Croatia make their Third substitution with Eduardo replacing Ognjen Vukojevic.
  • 79' - Wolfgang Stark has awarded Croatia a corner. Ivan Rakitic takes the kick from the Left .
  • 79' - Croatia push forward through Ivan Perisic, whose finish on goal is saved.
  • 78' - At PGE Arena Gdansk Xavi (Spain) takes a corner from the Left.
  • 78' - Spain's Cesc Fabregas gets in a shot but it is blocked by a Croatia defender.
  • 74' - Corner awarded to Spain.
  • 73' - Vicente del Bosque is making the team's Second substitution at PGE Arena Gdansk with Cesc Fabregas replacing David Silva.
  • 72' - At PGE Arena Gdansk Xavi (Spain) takes a corner from the Right.
  • 70' - Croatia's Ivan Perisic gets his shot away but it misses the target.
  • 69' - Spain's David Silva is whistled for offside at PGE Arena Gdansk.
  • 68' - Wolfgang Stark has awarded Spain a corner. Xavi takes the kick from the Left .
  • 67' - Spain have been awarded a corner by Wolfgang Stark. Xavi steps up to take it.
  • 66' - Sergio Ramos's header is off-target for Spain.
  • 66' - In Gdansk Xavi for Spain takes a corner from the Right-hand flag.
  • 66' - Nikica Jelavic is on a sub for Domagoj Vida for Croatia.
  • 66' - Ivan Perisic is replacing Danijel Pranjic for Croatia at PGE Arena Gdansk.
  • 61' - Vicente del Bosque (Spain) is making a First substitution, with Jesus Navas replacing Fernando Torres.
  • 60' - Corner awarded to Spain.
  • 60' - Spain push forward at PGE Arena Gdansk and David Silva gets in a strike. This is blocked, however, by a determined Croatia defence.
  • 59' - In Gdansk, Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) gets his head to the ball but the strike is cleared by an untiring defence.
  • 53' - Ivan Strinic (Croatia) gets a yellow card.
  • 51' - Wolfgang Stark blows against Spain's Jordi Alba for offside.
  • 49' - In Gdansk Ivan Rakitic for Croatia takes a corner from the Left-hand flag.
  • 46' - The second half has started at PGE Arena Gdansk.
  • 45+2' - The first half has been concluded at PGE Arena Gdansk.
  • 45' - 2 minutes of injury time will be added to the First half.
  • 45' - At PGE Arena Gdansk Xavi (Spain) takes a corner from the Right.
  • 44' - Darijo Srna (Croatia) has been booked and must now be careful not to get a second yellow card.
  • 42' - Spain have been awarded a corner by Wolfgang Stark. Xavi steps up to take it.
  • 35' - In Gdansk, Andres Iniesta of Spain is presented with a shooting opportunity. But the strike is blocked by the covering defence.
  • 30' - David Silva gets his shot on target but fails to score for Spain.
  • 30' - Spain's David Silva is on target but unsuccessful.
  • 29' - Mario Mandzukic returns to the field for Croatia after picking up a slight injury.
  • 29' - Play is underway once more.
  • 29' - Corner awarded to Croatia.
  • 28' - Attention is being given to Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic and play has been suspended briefly.
  • 27' - Vedran Corluka (Croatia) has received a first yellow card.
  • 26' - Croatia are pushing forward but Mario Mandzukic's finish is wide of the goal.
  • 25' - Danijel Pranjic gets his shot on target but fails to score for Croatia.
  • 24' - Spain are coming forward and Gerard Pique gets in a strike, it misses the target, however.
  • 23' - Spain's Sergio Ramos gets in a shot on goal at PGE Arena Gdansk. But the effort is unsuccessful.
  • 23' - In Gdansk Spain drive forward through Fernando Torres. His shot is on target but it's saved.
  • 12' - Andres Iniesta for Spain drives towards goal at PGE Arena Gdansk. But the finish is unsuccessful.
  • 4' - Fernando Torres (Spain) is first to the ball but his header is off-target.
  • 4' - Wolfgang Stark has awarded Spain a corner. Xavi takes the kick from the Left .
  • 1' - The match has started at PGE Arena Gdansk.

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