Licking Their Wounds, Croatia and Albania Prepare for Group B Dogfight

 Croatia's midfielder #10 Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Croatia at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 15, 2024. (AFP)
Croatia's midfielder #10 Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Croatia at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 15, 2024. (AFP)
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Licking Their Wounds, Croatia and Albania Prepare for Group B Dogfight

 Croatia's midfielder #10 Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Croatia at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 15, 2024. (AFP)
Croatia's midfielder #10 Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Spain and Croatia at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 15, 2024. (AFP)

Chastened by defeats to the heavyweights of Group B, Croatia and Albania both need a win in their clash on Wednesday to ignite their Euro 2024 campaign and give them hope of progressing.

Croatia have a rich World Cup history but have never replicated that at the Euros and began their latest attempt with a disappointing 3-0 defeat against Spain.

Albania are at only their second major tournament and performed creditably against defending champions Italy in their opening match, taking an early lead before succumbing 2-1.

Both teams urgently need points in their second game at Hamburg's Volksparkstadion, either to compete for the two qualifying spots or to bolster their chances of being one of the four best third-placed teams who will progress to the knockouts.

Croatia's coach Zlatko Dalic wants more aggression and speed from a team oozing quality -- from veteran midfielder Luka Modric, 38, at probably his last big tournament, to classy defender Josko Gvardiol, 22, at the other end of his career.

"We know what we're up against. We have two difficult matches. It's not over, keep your heads up. Our goal is to advance from the group and we will do our best to achieve that," Dalic said of a game Croatian media have billed as do-or-die.

"Everything is still in our hands, still under our control. We need to be better... It's up to me to turn things around, point out the flaws and not dwell too much on the Spain match."

Despite being viewed as minnows, Albania topped their qualifying group over teams such as the Czech Republic and Poland and are not at the tournament to make up the numbers.

Their Brazilian coach Sylvinho will try to keep his team disciplined before hitting Croatia on the break -- as they did against Italy with a goal after 23 seconds and so nearly again at the end when they narrowly failed to equalize.

"I have seen other sides in this tournament. If you try and go toe-to-toe with them, they will score five or six against you," he said. "It's only our second time here in the Euros. We have young players, very good players, but it's not easy."

Right winger Jasir Asani is Albania's main threat in what is the nation's first game against Croatia.



Chicago Fire Offer Vouchers for Fans if Messi Doesn't Play for Inter Miami on Aug. 31

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - JULY 17: Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami looks on prior to a game against Toronto FC at Chase Stadium on July 17, 2024 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - JULY 17: Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami looks on prior to a game against Toronto FC at Chase Stadium on July 17, 2024 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP
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Chicago Fire Offer Vouchers for Fans if Messi Doesn't Play for Inter Miami on Aug. 31

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - JULY 17: Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami looks on prior to a game against Toronto FC at Chase Stadium on July 17, 2024 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - JULY 17: Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami looks on prior to a game against Toronto FC at Chase Stadium on July 17, 2024 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP

The Chicago Fire said Friday that they will offer vouchers for fans if Lionel Messi doesn't play for Inter Miami when the teams meet at Soldier Field on Aug. 31.
Messi injured a ligament in his right ankle during Argentina’s win over Colombia in the Copa America final on July 14. The Fire said in a statement that they expect Messi to play. If he can't, the team will offer single match buyers who purchase between now and game day $250 off two or more new 2025 Chicago Fire season ticket memberships or $100 off two or more single match tickets for the 2025 home match against Inter Miami.
If fans already had purchased tickets, the Fire said they would offer the chance to claim two complimentary tickets to the Fire’s Fan Appreciation Night on Oct. 19 against Nashville.