Euro 2020 Group D match preview: England home games ‘unfair’ says Croatia’s Modric

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Croatia’s Luka Modric gestures during a team training session at Wembley stadium in London. Croatia face England in the Euro 2020 Group D clash today. Image Credit: AP

London: Croatia captain Luka Modric claims England have been given an unfair advantage in Euro 2020 after all three of their group games were scheduled for Wembley.

England start their European Championship campaign against Croatia today before hosting Scotland on Friday and the Czech Republic on June 22.

Several teams are playing their group matches on home turf due to UEFA’s decision to stage the tournament across 11 cities.

Italy kicked off the delayed event with a 3-0 win against Turkey in front of their own fans in Rome on Friday.

Decisive advantage

But England have a potentially decisive advantage, with two last 16 matches, both semi-finals and the final also being played at Wembley.

Real Madrid midfielder Modric is unhappy that England will have 22,500 fans at Wembley, while there are no official tickets allocated to Croatian supporters.

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Croatia players listen to Croatia’s manager Zlatko Dalic, centre, during a team training session at Wembley stadium in London, Saturday, June 12, 2021 the day before the Euro 2020 soccer championship group D match between England and Croatia. (Justin Tallis/Pool via AP) Image Credit: AP

Asked if England have an unfair advantage, Modric said: “I think so, yes.

“Everyone would say teams at home with a crowd, that there is a slight advantage.

“It’s a shame there won’t be a lot of Croatia supporters because we always feel their presence when they are there.

“But it is how it is. We need to focus on the pitch and don’t get bothered about the environment.”

Modric was part of the Croatia team that defeated England in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals in Russia.

England have drawn and beaten Croatia in the Nations League since that meeting and Modric admits Gareth Southgate’s side are a significant threat.

“I rate them very highly. For sure, they are one of the favourites for this tournament,” Modric said.

“I expect an English team that will be very aggressive, very powerful from the beginning with the public at its side.”

England were accused by Croatia of having an arrogant attitude ahead of the World Cup semi-final three years ago.

“That arrogance is not so much related to the players and to the national team but to the people around them. Some of the journalists and commentators,” Modric said as he tried to play peacemaker.

“Recently I’ve not read much media outlets. I’m looking forward to the match and I don’t want to say too much about what’s on the other side.

“Of course they will be offensive and aggressive. They are at home, in front of their journalists. They will be motivated. But we are the same.”

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England’s Jack Grealish arrives for an open training session at St. George’s Park, Burton-upon-Trent, Wednesday June 9, 2021. The Euro 2020 soccer championship gets underway on Friday June 11 and is being played in 11 host cities across 11 countries. The event was delayed by one year after being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson) Image Credit: AP

While England are one of the tournament favourites, they could be vulnerable at the back, with Manchester United’s Harry Maguire struggling to be fit in time to face Croatia.

Modric hinted Croatia would try to exploit that potential weakness as he said: “I can’t go into details but we’re prepared very well.

“The coach worked a lot with us about what we’re going to do and what we’re going to try and exploit. Tomorrow you’ll see which weaknesses.

“In big competitions we’ve presented very good games and sometimes the nuances have prevented us from going to the top.

“Expectations are great. Our people expect a lot, we expect a lot from ourselves. We are really looking forward to the Euro and I hope we show our true self.”

Maguire fit?

Meanwhile, Harry Maguire could play for England today although manager Gareth Southgate says it “is a longshot.”

The 28-year-old central defender has not played since injuring ankle ligaments in Manchester United’s Premier League defeat by Aston Villa on May 9.

However, he resumed training with England on Thursday and trained again on Saturday.

Southgate said it was not beyond the realms of possibility that Maguire – a key player as England reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals where they lost to the Croats – could appear.

“It is a long shot but he is further ahead than we thought he might be at this point so we are certainly not going to rule it out,” Southgate said.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson also trained with the group as he builds fitness, but Maguire’s United team-mate goalkeeper Dean Henderson – set to be back-up to Jordan Pickford this summer – sat it out due to a knock.