Euro 2012 preview: Italy v Croatia

Group C, Poznan, kick-off 5pm (coverage starts 4:45pm BBC1)

Size could matter in this evening’s opening game. The Croatians are the tallest side in the tournament, with an average height of 6’1”. They scored 43 per cent of their goals in qualifying with headers. Mario Mandzukic nodded in two of their three goals in their first match against Ireland. Italy, meanwhile, are the third smallest team at Euro 2012 and feature 5’5” winger Sebastian Giovinco, nicknamed the “Atomic Ant”. 

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With Andrea Barzagli yet to return from injury, Daniele De Rossi will continue as makeshift centre-back for the Italians. And while he and the rest of Italy’s back-line attempt to deal with Croatia’s aerial threat, another important battle will be taking place in midfield, as Italy’s Andrea Pirlo comes up against Croatia and Tottenham star Luka Modric. Both looked sharp in their opening games and the winner of their duel could have a huge impact on the outcome of this fixture.

Italy should be spurred on by their need for a win after drawing with Spain, while Croatia will want to cement their place at the top of Group C following their victory over the Republic of Ireland.

WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF? Despite being generally viewed as the superior footballing nation, Italy have never beaten Croatia in their five meetings – the Croats have won three and drawn two.

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PREDICTION: 2-1 to Croatia