Euro 2024: Italy and Croatia clash with tournament survival at stake

LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) — Defending champion Italy needs to avoid defeat against neighboring Croatia in their final group game to ensure progress at the European Championship. Croatia can progress with a win, or by avoiding defeat as long as Albania does not beat group-winner Spain in the other Group B game at the same time. Kick-off is at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Monday. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

— Italy has three points after beating Albania 2-1 in its opening game before losing 1-0 to Spain, which is already assured of winning the group. Croatia lost to Spain 3-0 in its opening game, then drew with Albania 2-2 in their second game, leaving both Croatia and Albania with one point. Albania has the better goal difference.

— Though a draw will be enough for Italy’s progression, Luciano Spalletti’s team will be keen to impress after being thoroughly outclassed by Spain in its previous game. Italy only lost by a goal, but the Italian players spent most of the game chasing Spanish shadows and were saved embarrassment by captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

— Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia team is once again led by Real Madrid star Luka Modric, who is yet to score in his fifth tournament appearance. “We’re delighted to have Luka Modric out there with us on the pitch. At the moment we’re entirely focused on Italy. We’re not thinking too much about that stuff,” Dalic said of this possibly being the 38-year-old Modric’s last tournament appearance.

— Italy lost in its previous and only game in Leipzig, a 1-0 defeat to East Germany in a friendly in April 1982.

— Many of the Croatian players have played in Italy, while Italy coach Luciano Spalletti is familiar with Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Perisic from their time together at Inter Milan between 2017 and 2019. “They can impact anything in a game of football, because they have stamina, quality, experience. Two excellent footballers and I have fond memories of them,” Spalletti said Sunday. “I still love them just as much as I did when they were my players.” The now 35-year-old Perisic scored 55 goals in 254 games across stints with Inter, winning the Serie A title in 2021 and Coppa Italia the next season.

Team news

— Italy left-back Federico Dimarco could miss the game with a right calf injury sustained in the loss against Spain. Spalletti said Sunday the defender had recovered, but that he would have another fitness test Monday to determine his availability for the match. Dimarco featured in both of Italy’s games so far.

— Croatia will be without midfielder Nikola Vlacic, who is no longer with the squad because of an injury, while Dalic said Sunday that veteran defender Domagoj Vida is also out. Vida missed Saturday’s training session with an ankle injury.

By the numbers

— Italy has a poor record against Croatia, winning only one of their previous nine meetings. Croatia won three, while there were five draws. The last three games all finished 1-1.

— Italy’s only win came in the first meeting between the countries, a friendly in Genoa in 1942 that yielded four goals for the home team.

What they’re saying

“I expect to see that we learned a great deal from the Spain game, even though we played badly and it was a painful defeat.” – Italy coach Luciano Spalletti.

“I think the shellacking we got against Spain the other day has taught us a lot. When you lose, you see the making of the man, the making of the player.” – Italy defender Alessandro Bastoni.

“I know the Italy coach. They will be well organized. It will be a tough match, but I believe we will rise to the challenge and come out victorious.” – Croatia midfielder Mario Pasalic.

“We know what the situation is. We know it’s essentially a knockout match tomorrow night, and there won’t be any extra time. And we must simply win the game. It’s must-win. We need to come home with three points to go through. Any other result will send us home. We don’t want to go home so soon.” – Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic.


AP Euro 2024:

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