Preview - Eyes on troublesome fans as Croatia meet Spain
By Steve Tongue
BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - When Croatia meet Spain in their final Euro 2016 group match on Tuesday there will be as much scrutiny of developments in the stands as on the pitch.
The wilder element of the Croatian supporters have caused trouble at both of the country's games so far and European soccer's ruling body UEFA was expected to make an announcement on its probe into their behaviour later on Monday.
UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings after Croatia fans threw flares and ran on to the pitch during their opening Group D game, a 1-0 win against Turkey.
Then Friday's 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic was halted with four minutes to play when supporters again threw flares and fought among themselves.
After the teams returned to the pitch, Croatia's players felt their concentration had been disturbed, which contributed to the Czechs scoring a late equaliser with a penalty.
That means instead of already having qualified for the last 16 along with Spain, Croatia still require a point from Tuesday's game, adding to the tension of the occasion.
The Spaniards, however, have not been blameless in a tournament which has seen several incidents of bad behaviour from fans.
Three of Spain's followers were arrested in Nice for carrying neo-Nazi banners, and another three for trying to bring flares into the stadium ahead of the match against Turkey.
The Croatian FA's security officer said on Saturday they had told UEFA and the police there would be a planned demonstration near the end of the Czech game and they have further information about Tuesday's match, which they will pass to the authorities.
"We lost our pace when play was suspended because of our supporters," midfielder Ivan Rakitic told reporters.
On Sunday he preferred to talk about the pleasure and apprehension of facing friends and team mates from Barcelona in the Spain team, like Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
"I’ve spoken to them a bit," he told a news conference. "We know it’s going to be tough because we are aware of their individual and team quality.
"But we have to show that we can hold our own against them. We have to impose ourselves and make them worry about us."
That will be more difficult if Croatia's influential playmaker Luka Modric is unfit, as expected, placing even greater importance on Rakitic's role.
Although Spain have already qualified, they want to win the group and meet a third-placed team in the last 16. Losing to Croatia would mean coming second and facing Italy, the winners of Group E.
(Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Adrian Warner)