Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Euro 2012: Spain midfielder Juan Mata wary of Croatia

Spain midfielder Juan Mata knows just how dangerous Croatia will be today when the two sides meet in the final Group C game at the European Championship.

Both sides still need something from the match to be sure of reaching the semi-final stage, with Italy two points behind them and favourites to beat the already eliminated Republic of Ireland.



Chelsea midfielder Mata will be facing plenty of familiar players from the Barclays Premier League, with Croatians Lukas Modric, Vedran Corluka. Niko Kranjcar and Nikica Jelavic all based in England, and he knows it will be a tough match.



"Croatia are playing very well," Mata said to Marca TV.



"They have very good players that I know from the Premier League.



"Lukas Modric is dangerous and we will have to keep a close eye on him."



Croatia opened their Euro 2012 campaign with a 3-1 win over the Republic of Ireland and then came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Italy.



Spain, meanwhile, drew 1-1 with Italy and brushed aside the Irish 4-0.



The 24-year-old Mata was among the goalscorers in the win on Thursday.



He expects his team to take three points against the Croatians, a result that would see the defending champions progress to the last eight as top of Group C.



"We are going for the win," Mata said. "That is what we always do.



"We are in good form and looking forward to play this third game.



"We know the fans are enthusiastic and they expect another win."



Modric, meanwhile, expects a very difficult game against Spain.



"It's going to be very tough," he said. "Both sides will want to prove their worth."



Anything but a win for Italy against the Republic of Ireland in the other group game would see Croatia join Spain in the quarter-finals.



Should Croatia and Spain draw and score at least four goals between them, Italy would not be able to catch them.



But a draw is not on the minds of the Croatian players.



"We will play as though this was any other game, trying to win,"Jelavic said. "We will not make any calculations or will we focus on what is happening elsewhere.



"For me, Spain and Germany are the favourite sides to win the title but the time has come for one of them to be eliminated."

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