Euro 2012 Social Match Preview: Italy v Croatia
Thursday sees a second round of games hit group C, with Italy and Croatia the pick of the evening’s action when they face off at 5pm at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan. Italy come fresh from an impressive display against European and world champions Spain, and whilst Croatia’s 3-1 dismissal of Italy will not raise many eyebrows it saw Tottenham midfield magician Luka Modric return to fine form.
Matches between these two southern European sides have certainly favoured the Croatians: since they became a country in their own right, Croatia are unbeaten, having won three and drawn two matches with the Italians. As Croatian coach Slaven Bilic recently quipped in an interview, “I don't believe that much in tradition but it's nice to know that we never lose against Italy.” The sides’ most recent encounter was a friendly in 2006, which marked Bilic’s first game in charge, when goals from Luka Modric and Eduardo clinched a 2-0 win. The only ever competitive meeting between the two came again as a second group match, though in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Despite the Croats winning 2-1, the Italians eventually progressed to the knockout stages only to lose to hosts South Korea. Relive the Vatreni glory above, or see both teams in action against Spain and Ireland on the BBC:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/18384187 (Italy vs Spain)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/18388030 (Croatia vs Ireland)
Juventus centre-back Andrea Barzagli remains out of action with a calf injury, so Daniele de Rossi looks set to fill-in at the back once again. Cesare Prandelli with no doubt build a side once again around Barzagli’s team-mate Andrea Pirlo, the 33 year-old providing a creative hub for Italy’s spirited performance against Spain, and might be likely to start Antonio di Natale in place of wayward striker Mario Balotelli after the Udinese striker came on to score in the same game.
After an attacking display against Ireland, it might be that Bilic is content with picking a more defensive line-up. Strikers Mandzukic and Jelavic are likely to start after a solid performance, whilst the diminutive Modric seems certain to once again pull the strings from midfield so long as he can get the better of Pirlo. Darijo Srna might be pushed up from full-back to right-wing to fulfil a position he often occupied during qualifying.
Excitement has been mounting throughout for the game, not least of all between the two coaches. Bilic has taken solace in his team’s impressive record against the Azzurri, in particular highlighting Luka Modric’s ability, claiming he was ‘better than Pirlo’. See exactly how confident Bilic is feeling in his press conference before the game here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5J-yrOuL6w
Prendelli retorted by saying if Modric was better than Pirlo ‘He has to win something important first’. Pirlo himself claims that the Italian side are ‘feeling positive’, particularly impressed by the side’s attacking talent and the ‘added resource’ of de Rossi starting at the back where he is free to start attacking moves.
Fans too have shown great enthusiasm for the tie. Same Drew (@chronicalsofal) tweets that the game ‘will be far better than Spain vs. ROI’. Silvia Costeloe (@scosteloe) hopes that fellow countryman Roberto di Matteo’s appointment as Chelsea manager prove a ‘good omen for Italy’s match vs. Croatia tomorrow’. Maurizio Zambito (@MaurizioZambito) is apparently preparing for a stressful day all round, faced with his own clas ‘vs WebAdvisor followed by Italy vs Croatia. Need to win both.’
Make sure to join in with a live commentary tomorrow from 16:30 GMT at http://www.anchorfan.com/anchorfaneuro2012
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