Analysis: Croatia Tactical Switch Makes the Difference, but Starting XI Too Flat

Croatia
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – Euro 2020 – Group D – Croatia v Czech Republic – Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – June 18, 2021 Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic reacts Pool via REUTERS/Petr David Josek

GLASGOW ⸺ Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic’s tactical switch at halftime revitalised his side in their 1-1 draw with Czech Republic in the European Championship on Friday, but his selection from the start left his team looking flat in attack.

Croatia did not pose England too many problems in their tournament opener at Wembley on Sunday. As a result, Dalic was expected to change things up in attack for Friday’s trip to Glasgow, with Bruno Petkovic in line to start up front.

However, he again went with Ante Rebic, who has scored three goals in 39 international appearances, as his main striker, with the Czechs rarely worried in the first half at Hampden Park. 

Rebic has scored with just one of his last 32 shots for his country since a goal against Argentina at the 2018 World Cup. Lack of confidence showed in the first half as he sliced his side’s only real opportunity wide from a good position.

The Croatians were not happy with the award of a first-half penalty, but they could not complain about going behind at the interval on balance of play. 

Dalic acted at the break, with Petkovic on through the centre, and the tactical move immediately bore fruit, as it allowed Ivan Perisic to switch to his preferred left-hand side, scoring a fine equaliser early in the second half. 

Perisic has now scored in each of his last four major international tournaments (2014 and 2018 World Cups, 2016 and 2020 European Championships), becoming the first Croatian to score in four separate such tournaments.

Getting him into his most effective position was imperative for Dalic, with an ageing Luka Modric unable to dictate games from a deeper position like he used to. 

With this revamped forward line, Croatia continued to pose much more of a threat after Perisic’s equaliser, and had the better of the openings to snatch all three points. 

It was not meant to be as they had to settle for a draw, but the point at least gives them a good chance of qualifying for the knockout stages, should they beat Scotland in their final group match on Tuesday.

Croatia have won only two of their last 11 international matches across all competitions, and are without a win in their last four. But with a fresher forward line and key players in their strongest positions, they have every chance of success next week.

Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne; Reuters

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