Croatia 2-2 Czech Republic: A tactical analysis of Ante Čačić's men as they drop two important points

A look at Croatia's tactics in their second match of EURO 2016 against Czech Republic, where they threw away a two goal lead late on to come away with a single point.

Croatia 2-2 Czech Republic: A tactical analysis of Ante Čačić's men as they drop two important points
Domagoj Vida wasn't the only Croatian in disbelief at the final whistle. (Photo: UEFA.com)

It was one of the most entertaining matches of Euro 2016 so far, as Czech Republic came back from two goals down to snatch what could prove a vital point against one of the most impressive sides at the tournament so far in the form of Croatia.

An unfortunate ending to the game that involved Croatian fans throwing flares on to the pitch despite being 2-1 ahead at the time may overshadow the game itself, but we'd rather focus on the tactical battle that took place during what was a thrilling game in Group D.

Čačić sticks with winning side

Croatia lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, as they did in their opening match against Turkey, and also began with the same starting 11 as manager Ante Čačić elected not to change a winning side.

They began the game just as they finished the first, with Mario Mandžukić registering the fastest shot on target of the tournament so far inside one minute and 11 seconds. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Juventus striker would be his side's main source of goals going into the tournament, but that was far from the case today, with Mandžukić using his towering frame and strength to hold the ball up and bring the three midfielders behind him into play regularly.

Croatia created multiple chances in the first half thanks to this style of play, and it was Inter Milan's Ivan Perišić who broke into the left side of the box and swept into the far corner in style to put his side a goal to the good in the 37th minute. It had been coming for the entire half, with Croatia registering several shots on goal as they did against Turkey, yet also remaining calm on the ball and waiting for the right moment to thread the ball through to one of their advanced players.

Luka Modrić was once again at the heart of everything good about Croatia's play, playing in a deeper role that he has become accustomed to at Real Madrid in recent years. The midfielder seemed to glide away from challenges and find space where there seemed to be none, something that he has been doing for his entire career whether that be in an advanced role or the deeper position that he was utitlised in today.

The goals once again came from the Croatian midfield. (Photo: UEFA.com)
The goals once again came from the Croatian midfield. (Photo: UEFA.com)

Another key component of Croatia's play was their captain Darijo Srna, a man who returned from his father's funeral to put in a committed and energetic display at right-back. Srna looked to overlap at every opportunity, and  used his quality on the ball to link up with Marcelo Brozović on the right side on several occasions in addition to delivering crosses into the penalty area in an attempt to utilise the aerial abilities of Mandžukić.

Something that Croatia have done in both of their two matches in the tournament that others have failed to even attempt at times, is loading the opposition's half with advancing players where possible. They registered 19 attempts over the course of the match, and should really have been three or four goals ahead by the time Czech Republic pulled a goal back in the 76th minute.

Modrić loss proved fatal

There is no doubt that this was a quality performance for the majority of the match, but when Modrić was taken off as an injury precaution Croatia seemed to lose some of their spark and creativity on the ball which ultimately led to Czech Republic gaining in confidence on the ball whereas they previously sat back and defended fairly deep in an attempt to cut off Modrić's options in possession.

The only real issue for Croatia in their opening game was that they should have won by more than a single goal, and that same problem haunted them today as they failed to put the game to bed when they had the chance to do so, which allows Czech Republic to steal a draw right at the death thanks to a Tomáš Necid penalty.

Their final group game against Spain will pan out a little differently to their previous matches, as their opponents will likely look to monopolise possession and prevent players such as Modrić from getting time on the ball whenever possible. Due to this, Čačić will need to ensure that his side play with the same tempo that they have done in order to create a similar amount of chances as they did today, only this time they must finish their opposition off or face it being their downfall once more.