Croatia v Scotland: Clarke's men aim to maintain unbeaten head-to-head in Hampden 'cup final'

By Sports Desk June 21, 2021

Croatia and Scotland face a must-win showdown at Hampden Park in Euro 2020 Group D – something that is not ideal for Zlatko Dalic's side.

In five previous meetings with Scotland, Croatia have never won (D3 L2). They have only faced world champions France (eight times) and reigning Euros kings Portugal (seven) more often without tasting victory.

But Scotland have been hit by a COVID-19 positive for Billy Gilmour after the Chelsea midfielder's man-of-the-match showing in the 0-0 draw with England.

That game at Wembley engendered a feelgood factor around Steve Clarke's squad, despite the fact they remain without a goal or a win in their two matches at the tournament so far.

Indeed, despite the impressive work overall of front two Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes last time out, Scotland have failed to score in five of their past eight matches at major tournaments (W1 D3 L4), with their 30 shots at Euro 2020 all fruitless.

"There’s been a good mood around the camp since we played England," Clarke said.

"I think the performance more than the result is what pleased us. We needed something from the game to make the last game the cup final it is, and we’re all looking forward to it."

Like Scotland, Croatia's haul of one point from two games means victory and hoping to finish as one of the four best third-place teams looks their most likely route through.

"I want this Croatia side to have support from the public, they deserve that, they deserve it for everything they've done for Croatian football," Dalic said. "As long as we have a chance to qualify, we need support."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Scotland – Scott McTominay

Gilmour's absence leaves a question mark over how Steve Clarke will use McTominay for this crunch clash. The Manchester United player reverted to a place in the back three against England, where he was a calming influence – his 54 touches more than any other Scotland player. When he featured in central midfield for the 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic, no team-mate bettered McTominay's two tackles or three interceptions.

Croatia – Ivan Perisic

Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic are sorely missed and Luka Modric might be straining for the memory of his Ballon d'Or-winning form, but Croatia still have Perisic to fire their hopes of progress. The Inter winger's blistering strike to snatch a 1-1 draw against the Czechs kept them above water in the competition. It also made him the first Croatia player to score at four different major tournaments, with eight goals in such matches overall.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

– None of the five matches between Croatia and Scotland have produced more than two goals.
– Scotland have only lost one of their past nine matches at Hampden Park, their opening reverse against the Czech Republic. They last suffered consecutive defeats there in 2019.
– Croatia have won only two of their previous 11 international matches across all competitions (D3 L6) and are winless in their past four (D2 L2). Scotland are looking to avoid failing to score in three consecutive competitive matches for the first time since three games between November 2003 and October 2004.
– Nikola Vlasic is the sole midfielder with five or more goals and five or more assists in each of the past three campaigns in the Russian Premier League. The only other player to do so in the competition is Zenit striker Artem Dzyuba.
– Andrej Kramaric is one of the three players to have scored 10 or more goals in each of the past five Bundesliga seasons, alongside Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry.

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    Neuer, who made his 18th appearance for Germany at the Euros, overtook Gianluigi Buffon (17) to become the goalkeeper with the most appearances in the tournament’s history but was unable to celebrate with a clean sheet. 

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    MATCH PREDICTION: ARGENTINA WIN 

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    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

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