A second half change of thinking from boss Slaven Bilic now sees Croatia within touching distance of the quarter finals of Euro 2012.
After being on the back-foot for the majority of the first period, the change in formation pushed Luka Modric into a more attacking position to help the front two, whilst also making sure that Andrea Pirlo couldn’t control the game as he had done previously.
The Tottenham midfielder has been an inspirational figure for Croatia, controlling the midfield area and helping to exploit weaknesses in both Ireland and Italy and if Bilic’s side are to make it to the knockout stages, then the 26-year-old will have to be more forward thinking.
The key for the final game against Spain will be the same as the first two fixtures; get the ball wide to Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic, get them to run at the full backs and if they can get crosses into the box, both Nikica Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic have shown what they can do.
One good thing to come out of Spain’s demolition job of Ireland was that it showed there is a chance to get down the wing against the Spaniards. Whether they would be up for the fight that the Croatian front two offer remains to be seen.
But Bilic still has one huge problem going into the decider on Monday; what to do with the defence, especially the two centre backs. Both Vedran Corluka and Gordon Schildenfeld looked less than imposing, especially in the first half, when both Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano went through them like the proverbial hot knife through butter.
With the enigmatic Fernando Torres finding his goalscoring form (with a little helping hand from the Irish defence) he will now go into the final fixture with a bag full of confidence, which Bilic’s boys will have to be wary of.
If they can defend resolutely and the breaks go their way, then there is no reason why they can’t make it to the knockout stage, especially with the talent of Modric in the side. Once again he showed against the Italians why he’s one of the most in demand playmakers in Europe this summer.
The one real positive is the fact that Bilic doesn’t have to worry about his job security, having already signed a deal to coach Russian outfit Lokomotiv Moscow next season, thus meaning that he can take risks against the Spanish without the worry of criticism and ultimately losing his job.
That may mean that Modric will start the game where he finished against the Italians, in a more attacking role, than thus offering a greater level of support to both Jelavic and Mandzukic and if they can do that, then they will have a greater chance of getting the result and putting one of Europe’s football powerhouses out at the group stage.
You can follow Matt Harold on Twitter.
More About Euro 2012
- Where do Sweden go after their poor performance at Euro 2012
- STV Sports Daily at the Euros: Our look back at the Euro 2012 final
- Italy manager urges Mario Balotelli to learn and grow from Euro final loss
- Vicente Del Bosque basks in 'extraordinary' Spain achievement
- Spain 4-0 Italy: Spain's dominance confirmed with rout of Italy
- Cesc Fabregas starts in strikerless Spain formation for Euro 2012 final
- Abate returns to Italy team for Euro 2012 final against Spain