The second round of matches kick off in Group D today and already this is a must win game for the Czech Republic, they will be up against a strong Croatian side, who outgunned Turkey in their opening fixture, in in St Etienne today.
Despite a decent defensive display against Spain, the Czechs found themselves heartbroken by a late header from Gerard Pique on the opening day of this group D campaign. In stark contrast there were scenes of jubilation for the Croatian contingent after a sublime Luka Modric strike downed Turkey by one goal to nil.
These contrasting fortunes in the opening fixture will make for an enthralling encounter between these two talented sides. After the late goal, questions still remain over the Czech Republic’s ageing squad in the latter part of games meaning that a early high tempo approach from the Croatians could end the Czech’s Euro dream, especially with the quality of players the Croats have available to them, such as Modrić, Rakitić and Mandžukić.
However, despite the age of their squad, and the high-profile players in the Spanish ranks, the Czech Republic held out until stoppage time in their opening game, they did create very few chances themselves but it is very understandable to play for a draw against a team with the quality of Spain. All it takes is one moment of magic from a player such as Czech captain and talisman Tomáš Rosický could see the Czechs emerge from this game with all three points and take a massive step towards a potential place in the last 16 of the Euros.
Czech Republic: Čech, Kadeřábek, Sivok, Hubník, Gebre Selassie, Darida, Plašil, Dočkal, Rosický, Krejčí, Necid
Croatia: Subašić, Srna, Ćorluka, Vida, Strinić, Badelj, Modrić, Brozović, Rakitić, Perišić, Mandžukić
Neither side has any major fitness concerns going into the match. Despite suffering a bloodied head in the opening game against Turkey, veteran defender Vedrun Corulka is fit after receiving three stitches in his head and will be available for selection. Croatia will also be able to call upon their skipper Darijo Srna who has rejoined the squad having travelled home to attend his father’s funeral.
I feel the most likely outcome of this particular encounter is a draw, which will not please the Czech Republic fans or players that but will delight the Croatians as it would see them one step closer to qualification from this group.