Balkan clash: Croatia and Albania meet for the first time at Euro 2024

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Croatia faces Albania in their second match in Group B. Both teams lost their opening matches and can’t afford another defeat if they want to keep hope alive of advancing from the group stage. The match starts at 3 p.m. local time (1300 GMT) in Hamburg. Here’s what to know:

Match facts

— The two Balkan teams have never met in a competitive match before. Albania is playing in only its second European Championship after qualifying for the tournament in 2016.

— Luka Modric’s Croatia is looking to rebound from a confidence-bruising 3-0 loss to Spain in the group opener. Croatia is expected to control the game while Albania relies on its robust defense and quick counterattacks.

— Albania stunned defending champion Italy with an early goal but conceded two goals later in the game in the 2-1 loss on June 15.

— Albania faces disciplinary charges for the behavior of its fans in the first game. UEFA says that included a “provocative message” allegedly displayed by fans, the throwing of objects, use of fireworks and a field invasion by a fan near the end of the game.

Team news

— Croatia midfielder Nikola Vlasic has withdrawn from the tournament because of a muscle injury. He didn’t play against Spain and didn’t take part in practice this week.

— Albania coach Sylvinho on Tuesday said his squad was injury-free, with all players available for the match against Croatia.

— Both teams are treating the match as crucial for their ability to advance from the group stage.

By the numbers

— Croatia had 54% possession in its first match against Spain, becoming the first team to hold the ball more than Spain in a competitive match since 2008. Croatia completed 528 passes to Spain’s 392.

— Albania’s Nedim Bajrami scored against Italy after just 23 seconds, the fastest goal in the history of the European Championship.

— Croatia forward Andrej Kramaric will celebrate his 33rd birthday on the day of the match.

What they’re saying

— “For me, personally, it’s a dream come true to play in front of that many Croatian fans at a major tournament. It was beautiful. I can only promise that we’ll give our best in the next games, and fight for our country.” – Croatia midfielder Lovro Majer about the support of Croatia fans in Germany.

— “We are not going to underestimate our opponents. We are in a ‘group of death’ and we know it is going to be hard to go through. Croatia are a tough team but we are preparing to give it our best.” – Albania defender Mario Mitaj.


AP Euro 2024:

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