Croatia's second Euro 2016 match against Czech Republic on Friday will be an emotional one for skipper Darijo Srna, who lost his father last week, but has come back from the funeral, ready to inspire his team to back-to-back wins. Croatia will feel inspired by his return as he is one of their talismanic leaders at the back.
Thie opponents Czech Republic suffered a painful loss against Spain in their first game, and have to defeat Croatia in order to increase their chances of making it to the next stage. They are a solid defensive unit, no doubt about that, but their offensive players need to get their game right against the Croats.
Most of their game will pass through the Arsenal star, Tomas Rosicky, who can prove the difference between a win and loss for the Czechs. Not only does he need to control the game with the ball on his feet, but also move forward with the thought of scoring a goal. Rosicky needs to play higher up the pitch, and link more with striker Tomas Necid.
The Czechs need to make quick breaks in the counter as Croatia, like they did against Turkey, will enjoy plenty of possession, so Rosicky and co. need to be clinical in front of goals as well. Their attack did not look threatening against Spain, and Rosicky wants a better offensive display from his team.
"We have to take the positive things from the Spain game and build upon them. Everyone played well and sacrificed a lot and we want to continue with this, with fighting and with cohesion. That's what we need. We need to show something more in attack. We need to be better in the end situations," goal.com quoted Rosicky as saying.
However, Pavel Vrba's men cannot afford to concentrate on their offense only, and leave wide gaps open in the midfield and at the back. They need to balance it out well. With Croatia possessing star players like Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, they can take advantage of empty spaces.
Croatia were brilliant offensively in their last game, but they only scored one goal, which was a shame as they made a number of attempts on goal. Striker Mandzukic was off colour, and he will be desperate to find his goal-scoring form as he was not impressive in the qualifying stages as well, scoring one of Croatia's 20 goals. Another failure from the Juventus striker could open the doors for Nikola Kalinic for future matches.
Ante Cacic's side is just a win away from the knockout stages, and will be keen to take three points against Czech Republic before facing title contenders Spain in their last match.
"The Czech Republic need points against us, but I expect my players to have the same approach they had against Turkey. The Czech Republic are not weaker than Turkey, they played a decent match against Spain and they are coming into this game in good spirits. But Croatia need to go for a victory in every match and it will be the same tomorrow (Friday)," UEFA's official website quoted Cacic as saying.
Overall, this crucial Group D encounter between Croatia and Czech Republic is expected to be a battle between Cacic's team offensive play and Vrba's men defensive execution.
Where to watch Euro 2016 live
Czech Republic vs Croatia is scheduled for a 6 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. IST, 5p.m. BST, 3 p.m. EST) start. TV coverage and Live streaming options for Euro 2016 are given below.
India: TV: Sony Six/HD and Sony ESPN/HD. Live Streaming: Sonyliv.
France: TV: Bein Sports 1. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
Crotia: TV: HRT 2
Czech Republic: TV: CT Sport
Albania: Top Channel Albania
USA: TV: ESPN. Live Streaming: Watch ESPN.
Canada: TV: TSN and RDS. Live Streaming: TSN TV.
Australia: TV: Bein Sports and SBS One. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
Latin America: TV: DirecTV.
China and Hong Kong: TV: CCTV and LeTV.
Thailand: TV: Channel 3.
Singapore: TV: Eleven Singapore and Singtel. Live Streaming: Singtel Go.
Malaysia: TV: Astro.
Middle East and North Africa: TV: Bein Sports Max. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: TV: SuperSport 3. Live Streaming: SuperSport