Saint-Étienne (France) (AFP) – The Czech Republic take on Croatia on Friday with their coach Pavel Vrba targeting a Group D win over “little Spain” to help their bid to keep their Euro 2016 hopes alive.
“With their stars playing at Real and Barcelona, they can be nicknamed ‘little Spain’. We know another tough game is in front of us,” said the Czech boss.
His side lost their opening European Championship finals game 1-0 to Spain in Toulouse last Sunday.
The nickname “Little Spain” given to Croatia has been coined with Ivan Rakitic at Barcelona, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic at Spanish rivals Real Madrid, while forward Duje Cop is at Sevilla.
The Croatia squad has been hit by a double bereavement in the build up to the Saint Etienne clash.
Captain Darijo Srna, then goalkeeping coach Marijan Mrmic both had to return home in recent days to be with their family after learning their fathers had died.
Shakhtar Donetsk defender Srna is back in France having travelled to Croatia after Sunday’s 1-0 win over Turkey for his father’s funeral.
Defender Vedran Corluka trained with the Croatia squad on Tuesday after a head injury knowing another win would put Croatia in the second round.
“This is a crucial game, we need to win it to secure a place in the next round,” said Dynamo Zagreb midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, who has spent the season on loan at Inter Milan.
“I believe if we play like we did against Turkey, we can win.”
Czech Republic held out against double defending champions Spain for 87 minutes until Gerard Pique crashed in the winner and their battling defensive was a plus point from the defeat.
“I don’t think they will keep as much possession of the ball as Spain, but they’re a strong team as well. We will play more offensive football too,” said Czech winger Ladislav Krejci.
Czech forward forward Tomas Necid was left kicking himself for faling to finish his chance to score at the end of the first-half against Spain, but says they will take their fight to stay in the competition to Croatia.
“Croatia won the opener — they may feel relatively comfortable as we have lost,” said the Bursaspor forward.
“I do not want to say we are going all-out for the win, but we need the important three points to qualify from the group.”
With the experience of facing Spain’s superstars out of the way, Czech captain Tomas Rosicky says his side can take confidence from a good display to boost them for Croatia.
“Our younger players were very surprised about playing against world class players,” said the Arsenal midfielder.
“They have to go through it. It is part of the normal development of a football player, and they have to be more self-confident, if we are going to hurt big opponents.”
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