Spain has finally clicked into gear after a sloppy start at Euro 2020 but will face its sternest test yet in the last 16 from Croatia, led by a sensational Luka Modric.

The champagne football certainly flowed in Spain's 5-0 win over Slovakia as coach Luis Enrique had promised after dull draws with Sweden and Poland but his side had the luck of facing an accommodating opponent and Croatia will not be so generous.

"In every sport they play, Croatians are always very competitive, they are lion-hearted and give everything for their country," said Spain forward Dani Olmo, who spent five years at Croatia's premier club Dinamo Zagreb.

"They really appreciate every objective they achieve. They have proven themselves in this Euros and other tournaments, they thrive in difficult situations. There's no favourite in this fixture, it's anyone's game."

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Modric, 36, led Croatia into the next round with a sumptuous goal in the 3-1 win over Scotland while also setting up Ivan Perisic's headed goal with a deadly corner.

The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner is Croatia's talisman and arguably the most talented player in Monday's game.


Spain's players know Modric all too well after nine magical seasons with Real Madrid although they will not be able to count on any inside information on the midfielder as Luis Enrique decided not to include any Real players in his squad.

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"He is their motor, the heartbeat of Croatia who conducts their orchestra. All their play goes through his feet," Olmo added. "But Croatia is not just Modric."

Olmo also said that, unlike Sweden, Poland and Slovakia, Croatia is likely to come out and attack Spain and not just defend, which could play into its hands after struggling in its first two group games.

It should benefit from a smoother pitch at Copenhagen's Parken Stadium after complaining about the surface at Seville's La Cartuja. Being away from a sometimes impatient home crowd could also help.

Cracking enocunter

Spain was beaten 2-1 by Croatia in the Euro 2016 group stage. It then hammered Croatia 6-0 in the UEFA Nations League in 2018, only to lose 3-2 away from home two months later.

The 2018 World Cup runner-up will be missing centre back Dejan Lovren through suspension, with Duje Caleta-Car set to take his place.

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Caleta-Car said Croatia must improve defensively after conceding in each of its three group matches.

"We've let in some soft goals as we haven't been compact enough. Against Spain, we have to keep it airtight in the midfield and at the back to close them down," he told reporters on Saturday.

Midfielder Mateo Kovacic added: "They know we are a good team too so it should be a cracking encounter. Spain has phenomenal midfield players, but we can match them in every department. We have to take the game to them."