Standing as one of only two teams to claim victory in their first two matches, defending European champion Spain looks to head to the knockout stage unscathed when it takes on upset-minded Croatia in Group D’s final match Tuesday at Nouveau Stade Bordeaux.
Vicente del Bosque’s side out-dueled Czech Republic for a 1-0 victory to start, then followed by pasting Turkey 3-0 for a perfect start and is now tied with host nation France for most goals in the tournament thus far, albeit Spain equaled the French and still have one more to improve their standing for the Round of 16.
Another victory would also give Spain, who’s tops among all nations with a 92 percent pass completion rate, the top seeding for the next round and thus an easier path as they try to be the first country to win the Euro title for a third successive time.
Del Bosque, though, does have some internal strife to fret over after forward Pedro complained about a lack of pitch time. The 28-year-old Chelsea forward check in as a sub with nine minutes remaining against the Czechs, but wasn’t used against Turkey and said: “It is not worth me turning up just to be part of the group.” Pedro would later apologize and Del Bosque treated the situation calmly.
"What he has said, he did not disrespect anyone,” Del Bosque told reporters. “I think his conscience got the better of him a little bit and he just showed a reality of what the 12 players who are not playing all feel.
"Pedro was a bit angry he is not playing, that is inevitable and can happen. We try to get on well with everyone and for everybody to be happy and comfortable.
"However, it is inevitable that in certain moments with those 12 players who are not playing there will be a bit of discrepancy, that is what happened and I don't think there is anything more to it than that.
"All the news here has been positive so when something negative comes out it is blown out proportion a bit, but I don't think it will have a lot of repercussions."
And given the fact that Spain are already through and don’t necessarily require victory over Croatia, on top of the offense awakening against Turkey, it’s likely Del Bosque is saving the former Barcelona standout for later in the tournament.
Croatia meanwhile is dealing with injuries to their two top players, midfielder Luka Modric and forward Mario Mandzukic. Dealing with a groin injury, Real Madrid’s Modric left in the 62nd minute against Czech Republic while Croatia was up 2-0, a lead it eventually lost and endured a 2-2 draw instead the three points from a victory.
Modric’s status against Spain is unknown and manager Ante Cacic did little tp dispel worry over what his side would look like without the creative playmaker and scorer.
"We will wait to see his condition and then decide whether he will play or not,” Cacic said. "We are building the team around him and we are limited without him."
Mandzukic is likely out, listed as doubtful, against Spain with some sort of a muscle injury. Both players reportedly underwent tests on Saturday and nothing is viewed as serious at the time.
Without either, Croatia is likely to fall victim to Spain for a fourth time. The Spanish have won three of the five meetings between the nations, and their one loss came in friendly action in 1994.
Prediction: Spain 2-1 Croatia
Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN (USA); HRT 2 (Croatia); MiTele En Vivo, TeleCinco Espana (Spain)
Live Stream: ESPN3