Italy vs Croatia Euro 2012: Azzurri Must Not Sleep on Dangerous Croatians

Wes ODonnellFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2012

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 01:  Antonio Di Natale of Italy in action during the international friendly match between Italy and Russia at Letzigrund on June 1, 2012 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Italy played to an impressive draw with Spain in their Group C opening match. It was not only surprising that the Spanish were unable to score more goals but, more importantly, it was surprising that the Italians were able earn a point off the defending World Cup and Euro champions.

Antonio Di Natale put home a fantastic goal early in the second half and the Azzurri defenders kept the striker-less Spanish at bay for the majority of the day.

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 10:  Mario Mandzukic of Croatia celebrates scoring their third goal with team mates during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C between Ireland and Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 10, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Christof Koepse
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Now they enter the second match of group play against a confident, dangerous Croatian team that sits atop the group.

Croatia dominated the Irish 3-1 in their opening match and look very much like a force to be reckoned with.

Led by Tottenham whiz Luka Modric, the Croatians scored goals easily, making runs through the Ireland back line like it wasn't even there.

The Italians, a traditional powerhouse and the 2006 World Cup champions, cannot allow the Croatians to sneak up on them. In fact, Italy should approach this game just like they did Spain.

Croatia has eyes on an advancing position and with Spain looming in the distance, they have to earn a result off the Italians, who are more than likely going to defeat the Irish.

Plain and simple, this match means everything to the Croatians. They believe they're capable of defeating Spain (and they very well could be) but leaving that to chance could cost them their tournament life.

Italy, on the other hand, has a match with Ireland to fall back on, but they cannot lose this match.