Spain v Croatia, 19:45
So far pretty much the only team who has been able to live up to their pre-tournament expectations would be Germany, with Spain coming pretty close but not quite being as dominant as expected. I think a lot of people were surprised by how conservatively they started their first game, with their 4-6-0 formation smacking of a small club/country trying to kill a game with possession, but the addition of Fernando Torres seems to have given them more of a cutting egde.
For Croatia this may not be a surprise position, although I’m sure the management wouldn’t have been counting on getting much from the Italy game, but now that they have the pressure is on to turn points into prizes. Although these two sides won’t be able to play for a result, with both group games happening simultaneously, it would probably be sensible for Croatia to assume Ireland won’t suddenly start playing like a good side against Italy and turn over that game.
Italian voices have been raised in anguish at the idea Spain and Croatia may choose to play out some kind of draw, knowing that would be enough to put them both through. To the average fan that seems deliciously ironic, that the likes of Buffon and the other Juve stalwarts may be hurt by someone else being a little bit too professional, but I suspect UEFA will have made it pretty clear that there will be consequence to such a decision.
Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic was substituted against Italy because of a knock and will be assessed before kick-off. Spain’s Sergio Busquets hurt his foot against Ireland, but he has been passed fit, and Fernando Torres is expected to keep his place after scoring twice against the Irish, which will give the Croat defence something extra to think on.
Although Croatia have a chance tonight, I like the Spanish win and Torres is 5/1 with StanJames as first scorer, although if the Spanish are level late it could be the introduction of Fabregas that wins it for them.