Published November 20, 2014
Spain and Croatia enter their group match tied on four points in Group C, setting up a very interesting affair at the Arena Gdansk on Monday.
There has not been much between the two sides when comparing their previous results in group play. Both have tied Italy and defeated Ireland, but Spain holds the edge due to its four-goal margin of victory over the Irish.
"We are all happy as our objective was to win the game and we achieved that," said Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque. "It wasn't easy as Ireland were very compact at the back. The most important thing from my point of view is that we showed security on the ball and played from one side of the pitch to the other. We had 26 shots on goal; that's an important statistic.
"I was impressed by our central defenders who handled their aerial threat very well. From there we were quite comfortable in our build-up play. We created danger despite our opponents trying to deprive us of space."
Croatia is riding high as well, earning a point against Italy with a late equalizer. Some of the credit for the comeback must go to head coach Slaven Bilic after he made some amends to the plan at halftime.
"It is not easy when you are up against a big team, but we were waiting for our chance," said Bilic. "They were better than us in the first half - we were lacking patience and trying to shoot from outside the box.
"I told them at halftime that we needed to be more aggressive and have more possession. We changed things tactically so Mario Mandzukic was playing deeper and we moved Luka Modric out to the wing and we were dominant after that."
Bilic remained coy regarding how Croatia will approach Monday's meeting with Spain, an entirely different entity compared to Italy.
"I don't want to talk about our next match against Spain," Bilic said. "We have loads of time to analyze them, but after two matches this is a really good situation; four points and I am really optimistic about the next game and the whole tournament. Six points would have been even better, but this is pretty good."
Del Bosque did not rule out the possibility of simply playing for a draw, though he echoes his desire to go for the win.
"There is no question of us being interested in a draw against Croatia in our last game," Spain's tactician said. "We said before tonight that we had two games left and that we wanted to win both. That hasn't changed. In a tournament like this you can never let your guard down."