Spain are particularly wary of forward Mario Mandzukic and playmaker Luka Modric as they prepare for Monday’s Group C decider against Croatia, an assistant to coach Vicente del Bosque has said.
Mandzukic is the tournament’s joint top-scorer with three goals and Modric sparkled in the Croats’ 3-1 win over Ireland in their opening game and the 1-1 comeback draw with Italy.
“Croatia are playing very well and many of their fans have come to Poland and that gives them a lift that makes them more dangerous,” Del Bosque’s assistant Paco Jimenez said on the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) website.
“They have good players like Modric and Mandzukic and in defense it has worked out well for them putting [Vedran] Corluka in central defense,” added Jimenez, who puts together the short films of opponents that the players study before matches.
“Modric has impressed me a great deal, he is a fantastic footballer and Mandzukic is playing very well.
“He gets up well [to head the ball] he fights for everything and we are going to have trouble controlling him effectively.”
“Now we enter all the data into the computer so we can access all the information together, because that makes things a bit faster now.”
A relative unknown at international level and close to being disowned by his club, Mandzukic is becoming a star of the European Championship. His three goals in two matches, as well as his tireless endeavor, have given Croatia a real chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals.
“First, I dreamed of Croatia beating Ireland and me scoring my first goal in the Euros, and then I dreamed of going against [Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi] Buffon to see his eyes and scoring a goal,” said Mandzukic. “My next dream is to see Croatia go to the quarterfinals.”
Holders Spain and Croatia top the group on four points ahead of Italy on two and eliminated Ireland on none.
Even if the Italians beat the Irish they would be knocked out as long as the other game is a scoring draw of two goals each or more.
Jimenez said he was spending Friday collating all the information he could find on Croatia to present to Del Bosque and the coach’s number two Toni Grande.
“I used to do that at Real Madrid, I currently do it for the national team and after the tournament I will retire,” he added.