Croatia will play Albania in their second match of the Euro 2024

Croatia and Albania, who are both playing catch-up in Group B, can't afford to lose their Wednesday afternoon match in Hamburg

(Football news) The two sides will try to maintain their chances of making it to the tournament’s knockout round despite losing their opening Euro 2024 matches last weekend.

A 3-0 loss to Spain in Berlin marked the beginning of Croatia’s seventh European Championship campaign, and sixth in a row, as some experts had them winning some hardware this summer.

The Croatians trailed three goals before halftime against La Roja, the team that won the UEFA Nations League final the previous year. Bruno Petkovic’s missed penalty—he was later punished by his manager for skipping the queue—only made things worse.

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.

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.

Also read: Germany will play Hungary in their second match of the Euro 2024


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