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Euro 2020 | Spain, Croatia peaking ahead of knockout game

Spain have missed the last five penalties, including two at Euro 2020, so the coach probably doesn’t like the prospect of a penalty shootout.

Dani Osmo will face some familiar opponents as Spain face Croatia in the 1/8 finals of the European Championship.

In fact, he could easily line up for Croatia and not Spain at Euro 2020.

The attacking midfielder turned down offers from the Croatian national team after joining Dinamo Zagreb from the Barcelona academy at the age of 16 and spending six seasons at the club.

Olmo has never played adult club football in Spain – he moved to RB Leipzig in 2020 – but does not regret his decision to stay in his country.

“There was interest from Croatia, but I always preferred to play for Spain,” Olmo said.

Olmo, 23, is part of the group of young players that are assigned the leading roles in the rejuvenated Spanish side of Luis Enrique. In the match with Croatia, he is assigned the additional role of an internal expert on opposing players.

“Our coach knows the Croatian team well. If he asks me, I will share my opinion with him, ”Olmo said. “I’ve played with most of their players. … I think (Bruno) Petkovic stands out. He is a full-fledged player and we must pay special attention to him. ” However, Croatia will be left without one of its best players to play in Copenhagen after forward Ivan Perisic tested positive for COVID-19. Perisic, who scored two goals in the group stage, will have to self-isolate for 10 days and will also miss the quarterfinals and semi-finals if Croatia gets that far.

Spain and Croatia seem to have peaked at just the right time after a slow start to the tournament. Spain beat Slovakia 5-0 in their last group game to move forward, while Croatia beat Scotland 3-1 and finished second behind England in Group D. Both also have strong tournament pedigrees, although their recent trajectories have diverged. Croatia reached the 2018 World Cup final before losing to France, and 13 of those players are still in the squad.

Between 2008 and 2012, Spain won three major tournaments in a row, including two European Championships, but lost in the 1/8 finals at both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Moreover, only seven players from the Spanish national team played in the previous major tournament.

One of these veterans, Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets, helped the team a lot when he returned to the match against Slovakia after testing positive for coronavirus ahead of the tournament.

Luis Enrique continued the traditional Spanish possession approach, but in the first two draws against Sweden and Poland, the attacking play looked difficult.

However, Croatia will play more aggressively and will not mess around to allow Spain to dominate the ball.

“When the Spaniards are in possession, they force it, and in the first two games they had a little difficulty scoring,” said Croatian defender Duje Caleta-Kar.

“We have players who can show their quality thanks to the possession of the ball, and in this I see our chance. They have not yet experienced the fact that someone takes the ball from them. ” Croatia midfielder Nikola Vlašić also warned against Spain spending too much time in possession.

“We definitely need to prevent them from feeling comfortable and playing their football,” Vlasic said. “It would be fatal for us because they are technically excellent indeed.” Croatian veteran Luka Modric has shown with his goal against Scotland that he remains a formidable force at 35 and will be a player trying to dictate the course of the game.

“He is their engine and the heart of the Croatian national team,” Olmo said of Modric. “Croatia’s attack comes from his boots.” As for the Spanish attack, the focus will again be on Alvaro Morata. The striker from Spain received a torrent of abuse online after missing a penalty kick against Slovakia, and was also heavily criticized after the first two games, despite scoring against Poland.

Morata said he received threats against his children and could not sleep for nine hours after playing in Slovakia. But with Spain bringing back a productive game against Slovakia, the team may not have to rely so heavily on Morata.

This is good news for Luis Enrique.

Spain have missed the last five penalties, including two at Euro 2020, so the coach probably doesn’t like the prospect of a penalty shootout.



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