Euro 2016

Czechs in for difficult game with 'little Spain'

Luka Modric (left) and Ivan Rakitic, who play for La Liga sides Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, will be relied upon to control Croatia's midfield and have been dubbed "little Spain" by opposing Czech coach Pavel Vrba.
Luka Modric (left) and Ivan Rakitic, who play for La Liga sides Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, will be relied upon to control Croatia's midfield and have been dubbed "little Spain" by opposing Czech coach Pavel Vrba.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

GROUP D

Czech Republic v Croatia

Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, 11.50pm

SAINT ETIENNE • The Czech Republic take on Croatia today with their coach Pavel Vrba targeting a Group D win over "Little Spain" to help their bid to stay in Euro 2016.

The nickname was coined with a few of Croatia's linchpins now plying their trade in Spain - Ivan Rakitic at Barcelona, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic at Real Madrid, and forward Duje Cop at Sevilla.

"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, whose side lost their opening game 0-1 to the real Spanish side last Sunday.

Croatia, however, have been hit by a double bereavement in the build-up to the St 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.

Defender Domagoj Vida said that the team would go the extra mile for their skipper and Mrmic.

"We all mourn when someone here suffers a loss because we are one big family," he said.

"We will be galvanised to play for our captain and put him straight back on the rails. He is a great character and I am totally convinced he will be at his best on Friday.

"I don't think the Czechs will throw caution to the wind despite being under more pressure than us. They are more likely to sit back and rely on fast breaks because that's their style."

With the experience of facing Spain's stars out of the way, Czech captain Tomas Rosicky says his side can take confidence from their display to boost them for Croatia.

"Our younger players were very surprised about playing against world-class players," said the former Arsenal midfielder.

"They have to go through it. It is part of the normal development of a football player. They have to be more self-confident if we are going to hurt big opponents."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'Czechs in for difficult game with 'little Spain''. Print Edition | Subscribe