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Croatia national football team
European Championship | Group Stage
Jun 19, 2024 at 2pm UK
Volksparkstadion
Albania national football team

Croatia
2 - 2
Albania

Kramaric (74'), Gjasula (76' og.)
Ivusic (87')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Laci (11'), Gjasula (90+5')
Hysaj (77'), Daku (90+4'), Gjasula (90+7')

Preview: Croatia vs. Albania - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's European Championship clash between Croatia and Albania, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

HALF-TIME UPDATE: CROATIA 0-1 ALBANIA

Albania celebrate Qazim Laci's opening goal against Croatia at Euro 2024 on June 19, 2024. (IMAGO).© Imago

Albania may have taken longer than 23 seconds to score against Croatia, but the minnows of the tournament were overjoyed to take the lead within 11 minutes.

Qazim Laci's goal was superbly executed. The midfielder sprinted from deep to meet the inswinging cross of Jasir Asani, glancing a header into the net despite the desperate effort of goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

Croatia created opportunities in response, just not as frequently as you would expect, with Marcelo Brozovic driving a shot wide from distance and Bruno Petkovic directing a free header over the crossbar.

Despite Croatia - the 2022 World Cup semi-finalists - having more than 60% of possession, Albania looked far the more threatening, Kristjan Asllani somehow being denied at point-blank range by Livakovic.

This was a wholly-committed first-half performance from Albania who relied on the relentlessness of their attacking players to hit Croatia on the counter.

If that subsides in the second half, Croatia could overwhelm them, and Sylvinho's substitutions are going to be key if Albania are to hold on for a famous win.

HALF-TIME PREDICTION: CROATIA 2-1 ALBANIA



Match preview

Croatia's Luka Modric pictured in June 2024© Reuters

Tipped by some pundits to finally bring home some silverware this summer, Croatia started their seventh European Championship appearance - and sixth in succession - with a humbling 3-0 defeat to Spain in Berlin.

Once again losing to La Roja, who were triumphant in last year's UEFA Nations League final, the Croatians trailed by three before the break, and a missed penalty from Bruno Petkovic - who was subsequently reprimanded by his manager for jumping the queue - only compounded matters.

The mastermind of his nation's recent exploits at major tournaments, head coach Zlatko Dalic saw his side fail to score despite having 16 shots and posting an expected goals total of 2.38 - but in Euro 2024's so-called 'Group of Death' there is no time to sit and reflect.

Instead, Croatia must try to arrest a decline featuring three defeats from their last five competitive matches, having also been beaten by Turkey and Wales in qualifying - that is as many losses as throughout the previous 29.

The Vatreni have not lost consecutive games at the same finals since Euro 1996, and they certainly cannot afford to do so when meeting regional rivals Albania for the first time in senior international football.

Eliminated at the first knockout stage in their last two Euros, even getting that far will be a tall order unless they pick up at least one point in Hamburg, as reigning champions Italy await in their final group fixture.

Albania's Nedim Bajrami celebrates scoring against Italy on June 15, 2024© Reuters

While Croatia are seasoned campaigners at the Euros, this summer marks only Albania's second appearance since gaining independence - both coming in the last three editions.

Continuing their dismal record at UEFA's main event, the Eagles lost 2-1 to holders Italy last weekend, despite Nedim Bajrami scoring a stunning opener after just 23 seconds - the quickest goal in European Championship history.

A loose throw-in was eagerly pounced upon by Bajrami, who then fired a venomous strike into the top corner from a tight angle, but the Azzurri soon bit back, scoring twice by the 16th minute.

Substitute Rey Manaj came close to snatching a late leveller in Dortmund, only to be denied by Italy captain Gianluigi Donnarumma, but Albania were ultimately beaten and have now lost three of their four matches at major finals.

It was the first competitive defeat since March 2023 for Sylvinho's side, ending a seven-game unbeaten streak in such matches: after losing their opening qualifier to Poland they then went without defeat, finishing ahead of both the Poles and Czech Republic.

The Euro 2024 draw was not particularly kind, though, and they have a huge job on their hands to avoid an early exit: even if they pick up a point on Wednesday, the Eagles must meet Spain in a potentially decisive final fixture next week.

Croatia European Championship form:


Croatia form (all competitions):


Albania European Championship form:


Albania form (all competitions):



Team News

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic with Croatia's Josip Juranovic during the match on June 14, 2023© Reuters

Following his team's sluggish start to these finals, Zlatko Dalic may make some changes to the XI that lined up against Spain last time out, including a potential return to central defence for Manchester City star Josko Gvardiol.

Marin Pongracic could make way, with Borna Sosa coming in at left-back; it has been suggested that Marcelo Brozovic might also be dropped, offering a chance for either Luka Sucic or Mario Pasalic to make an impact in midfield.

Despite only playing 65 minutes, Luka Modric made the most line-breaking passes of any player in Saturday's match (13), and the Vatreni's skipper will play an integral role once again.

With Bruno Petkovic receiving his manager's ire for missing Croatia's spot kick, the front three is more likely to remain unchanged - particularly as veteran winger Ivan Perisic is still not back to full fitness following a long layoff.

Torino forward Nikola Vlasic has left the camp and will miss the rest of the tournament due to an injury sustained in training - he underwent an MRI scan which revealed a minor muscle tear.

Meanwhile, Albania's Jasir Asani was initially a doubt due to an ankle problem. Sylvinho has since reported a clean bill of health, though.

Germany-born Arber Hoxha - who plays his club football for Dinamo Zagreb – would have probably been promoted from the bench but must again settle for a substitute role.

Either Rey Manaj or Chelsea's Armando Broja should spearhead the Albanian attack, as Sokol Cikalleshi - a regular fixture during qualifying - was omitted from the squad and subsequently announced his international retirement.

Once again, the central striker's support comes from Nedim Bajrami, who has recorded at least one goal involvement in each of his last three national team appearances. The Sassuolo schemer also posed a major threat in qualifying, scoring a team-high three goals in seven starts en route to Germany.


Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Stanisic, Sutalo, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Sucic, Kovacic; Majer, Budimir, Kramaric

Albania possible starting lineup:
Strakosha; Hysaj, Ismajli, Djimsiti, Mitaj; Asllani, Ramadani; Laci, Bajrami, Asani; Broja


SM words green background

We say: Croatia 2-1 Albania

As defeat would almost certainly mean elimination from Euro 2024, the stakes are already very high in these teams' second Group B contest, sure to be played in front of a passionate crowd at Volksparkstadion.

While they failed to impress in their opener, Croatia's vast experience should see them past a committed Albania side that may well be bound for the exit.



For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.


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Game History

How you voted: Croatia vs Albania

Croatia
79.1%
Draw
10.2%
Albania
10.6%
762
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Albania players pose for a team group photo before the match on November 20, 2023
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Euro 2024 fixtures header
Sunday, July 14
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Group A

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Germany Germany32107
Q Switzerland Switzerland31205
3 Hungary Hungary31023
4 Scotland flag Scotland30121

Group B

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Spain Spain33009
Q Italy Italy31114
3 Croatia Croatia30212
4 Albania national flag Albania30121

Group C

TeamPWDLPTS
Q England flag England31205
Q Denmark Denmark30303
Q Slovenia Slovenia30303
4 Serbia Serbia30212

Group D

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Austria Austria32016
Q France France31205
Q Netherlands Netherlands31114
4 Poland Poland30121

Group E

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Romania Romania31114
Q Belgium Belgium31114
Q Slovakia Slovakia31114
4 Ukraine Ukraine31114

Group F

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Portugal Portugal32016
Q Turkey Turkey32016
Q Georgia Georgia31114
4 Czech Republic Czech Republic30121


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