5 things you need to know about Spain vs Croatia & France vs Switzerland
Euro Daily: June 28, 2021
The 3rd round of European Championship Last-16 fixtures will feature a pair of games, as the likes of France and Spain eye up quarter-final berths.
Below, check out five things you need to know about Monday’s action.
1) France’s personnel woes
Our first talking point when it comes to this evening’s games centers on something of a personnel crisis facing Didier Deschamps’ France.
After managing to top the ‘Group of Death’ with a 5-point haul earlier this week, Les Bleus, ahead of a showdown with Switzerland at the National Arena, have since been hit by a whole host of problems.
The most glaring have come at left-back, with Lucas Digne, introduced in place of the sidelined Lucas Hernandez against Portugal last time out, having then too been forced to limp off, with what appeared to be a thigh injury. Remarkably, this has since been followed by confirmation that Adrien Rabiot, forced into a left-sided defensive role as a result, is now dealing with an ankle problem of his own.
Add to this further fitness issues picked up by all of Marcus Thuram, Thomas Lemar and Jules Kounde, as well as Ousmane Dembele’s complete absence for the remainder of the tournament, and it is safe to say that the world champions are suffering the effects of a gruelling condensed campaign.
Can the Swiss take advantage, to spring the surprise of the Euros thus far?
2) Weary Swiss?
France, though, are not the only nation to have been forced to deal with adversity ahead of the competition’s round-of-16. In fact, their upcoming opponents, too, have endured a less than ideal preparatory stretch ahead of Monday’s high-profile showdown.
Recent days have seen the emergence of a series of statistics, highlighting precisely how far each country was forced to travel, across their group stage endeavours.
And Switzerland, by some distance, sit top. Incredibly, Vladimir Petkovic’s men made their way across no fewer than 7,245 miles, in preparation for three group stage fixtures. Heavily favoured France, on the other hand, travelled just 1,173 miles, less than a 6th of the Swiss.
Whilst some may view such figures as largely irrelevant in the grande scheme of the tournament, it is worth noting that the opening Last-16 fixture between Wales and Denmark saw the former, who travelled almost ten times as far as the Danes en route to clinching a knockout berth, tire significantly earlier, culminating in an eventual 4-0 drubbing.
MILES TRAVELLED BY LAST-16 NATIONS
Switzerland – 7,245
Sweden – 6,644
Wales – 5,382
Czech Rep – 4,995
Belgium – 4,824
Ukraine – 3,757
Portugal – 3,696
Austria – 3,495
Croatia – 1,828
Spain – 1,530
France – 1,173
Holland – 1,111
Italy – 898
Germany – 572
Denmark – 395
England – 0
— Phil Cadden (@pjcadden) June 24, 2021
3) Clasico legends go head to head
Turning attentions to this evening’s early fixture, an enticing midfield battle looks set to play out between two of El Clasico’s long-time star performers.
The players in question? Luka Modric and Sergio Busquets.
Croatian captain Modric, despite being set to turn 36 this summer, has continued to light up the international stage at Euro 2020 thus far. A stunning goal highlighted a trademark all-action display in his nation’s crucial final day group stage downing of Scotland, with the Real Madrid man no doubt quietly confident of guiding Croatia beyond an altogether hit-and-miss Spanish outfit.
Hoping to halt such efforts for La Roja, though, will be long-time foe Sergio Busquets. Barcelona’s midfield metronome returned to starting duties for Spain’s final group stage meeting with Slovakia during the week. And to say that Busquets’ influence proved telling would be something of an understatement, with his almost unmatched ability to dictate the flow of a game having made clear why the veteran remains Luis Enrique’s first-choice, over Rodri.
Add in fellow Barca talent Pedri and ex-Real man Mateo Kovacic, and the importance of the Clasico-inspired midfield battle on Monday’s early kick-off becomes crystal clear.
4) Griezmann’s magic touch
One man whom France will no doubt be desperate to see find the back of the net versus Switzerland in Bucharest is Antoine Griezmann.
The 30-year-old has enjoyed a solid if unspectacular tournament to date, notching a solitary goal to secure a share of the spoils for Deschamps’ men in a 1-1 stalemate with Hungary.
What makes Griezmann potentially adding to his Euros tally versus the Swiss so important, though, is the fact that, when he does come up trumps for his country, Les Bleus literally never lose. To this point in his international career, the Barcelona hitman has racked up a none too shabby 38 goals.
Such strikes have come across a total of 34 outings, with France, remarkably, having not fallen to defeat in a single one (30 wins, 4 draws).
If Griezmann does manage to make it 39 goals later today, expect the world champions to follow up by booking their spot in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
5) Morata’s disgraceful treatment
Our last ‘thing to know’ ahead of the 3rd round of Last-16 fixtures, unfortunately, centers on one of the few negatives of an otherwise superb tournament to date.
Spanish hitman Alvaro Morata has of course come in for heavy criticism of late, amid widely publicised struggles in front of goal across La Roja’s trio of group stage fixtures. Whilst he did manage to find the net en route to a 1-1 draw with Poland, glaring misses, particularly versus Sweden, ultimately proved costly in Luis Enrique’s men missing out on top spot in Group E.
Certain shameful sections of the Spanish fanbase, however, have taken their criticisms a step too far.
Speaking in an interview with El Partidazo de COPE this week, Morata opened up on the frankly disgusting torrent of abuse that both he and his family have been subjected to over recent days:
‘I didn’t sleep for nine hours after the match against Poland.’
‘I’ve received death threats, insults to my family, that I hope my children die.’
Whilst Morata went on to assure that he is now ‘fine’, it goes without saying that such behaviour has absolutely no place in the modern game. ‘Fans’ – if they can even be classed as such – would be well served in remembering that football, at the end of the day, is little more than a game, with the players at whom they so carelessly hurl abuse also human beings.
Source: Football – 101GreatGoals