After a nervy showing in the group stages, Spain hopes to reinstate their reputation as a Euro 2020 favourite with a compelling win over Croatia today. While it was not exactly compelling, La Roja got a 5-3 win after extra-time to move into the quarter-finals & set up a date against the winners of the France-Switzerland game.
Spain started the game in extremely dominant fashion – but couldn’t even score absolute sitters. They were made to pay for that as in the 20th minute – against the run of play – Croatia got the lead thanks to an awful mistake from Unai Simon, who allowed harmless Pedri’s backpass to go past him for one of the worst own-goals ever.
After that, Croatia took control for a bit before Spain composed themselves and got their equalizer in the 39th-minute as Pablo Sarabia struck a shot that went through a sea of bodies into the back of the net. La Roja dominated 73% of the possession in the first half – but couldn’t really stamp that because of poor finishing.
Spain then took the lead in the 57th minute when Cesar Azpilicueta of all people popped into the box and scored a thumping header to make it 2-1. Ferran Torres made it 3-1 in the 77th minute with a lovely finish from close range after catching the entire Croatia defence napping from a set piece.
Just as it looked like Spain were strolling to a win, they made things difficult for themselves by conceding another one in the 85th – allowing substitute Mislav Orsic to tap in a goal over the back of the line to make it 3-2! But their worst nightmare came true in added time, when Mario Pasalic rose highest in the box to powerfully score past Simon – making it 3-3 and forcing extra-time!
Spain retook their lead in the first half of added time – with Alvaro Morata producing a powerful finish in the 100th minute to make it 4-3! Three minutes later, La Roja mounted a clever counterattack that was finished well by Mikel Oyarzabal to make it 5-3. Spain were able to hold onto that lead successfully and secured a dramatic win (mostly due to their own errors) in what was probably the most entertaining game of the Euros so far.
Here are Spain player ratings vs Croatia.
Spain Player Ratings vs Croatia
Luis Enrique (6.5) –
Enrique made some interesting choices in selecting his starting XI and made bold decisions to start the likes of Alvaro Morata, Pablo Sarabia & Jose Gaya over potentially stronger options. That ended up working well with all three involved in goals. His management and tactics for the first 70-80 minutes were spot on as Spain completely dominated the game.
But then Enrique started digging holes with unforced errors. His substitutions (especially defensive ones) were unnecessary and tipped things onto Croatia’s favour. Even his game management towards the end was poor – as being unable to control possession allowed Croatia those two late goals. In the end, his side’s quality was enough to get a win – but Enrique can’t afford to repeat his mistakes going forward or else risk disaster.
Unai Simon (5.5) –
In this big game, Simon aims to prove why he’s regularly starting ahead of David de Gea. Yeah, that didn’t work out at all. He completely misjudged a backpass to him and some horrible close control saw the ball go over his foot through to the back of the net. One of the worst own goals in Euros history (and this edition actually has had many).
At least (kinda?) redeems himself by coming off his line well to clear danger and allow Croatia another before half-time. Makes an impressive reflex save to deny a goal from close-range in the 67th. But couldn’t really do much to deny Orsic’s goal late on. Saves Spain from disaster in extra time with an exceptional reflex stop to deny a guaranteed goal from close range. A very topsy-turvy day for Simon – but that OG will be the one history books remember his performance by.
Cesar Azpilicueta (7.5)-
Azpilicueta gets Spain’s first shot on target with a weak header to the keeper in the 9th minute. He kept on trying after that by regularly getting into the area and produced a better finish than Morata with a fantastic header from close range to score his first-ever International goal for Spain.
The Chelsea captain showed incredible resolve & character to maintain impressive defensive sturdiness all through the 120 minutes – working his socks off. Played like a warrior – on both sides of the pitch – and dominated things on his side for the majority of the game.
Eric Garcia (7.0) –
The young defender is playing as the more aggressive centre-back and actually doing well to keep Ante Rebic quiet with his timely tackles. Maintained really nice positioning to narrow the goal-scoring horizon for Croatia and came up with some crunching challenges to frustrate the opponent. Substituted in the second half – possibly because of his aggressive nature.
Aymeric Laporte (6.0) –
Laporte starts the game really well – making a brilliant pass to almost set up a goal in the 2nd. The Man City defender was really solid in the first half but started to lose his nerves towards the end of the second. Couldn’t do anything to deny Croatia’s goals and lost track of Pasalic for his added time equalizer. Almost gifts Orsic a goal with a botched clearance in the 92nd.
Despite his impressive passing & timely clearances, Laporte lost too many key duels for his own liking. Can’t continue making such mistakes in the latter stages.
Jose Gaya (6.5) –
The attack-minded left-back caused a lot of problems with his forward running and struck a venomous shot that was deflected to Sarabia for his strike. Put in a sturdy effort defensively too – neutralizing Croatia’s flow through his side really well. Had to be subbed late on after suffering an injury.
Sergio Busquets (8.0) –
The Spanish captain needs to turn up with something special for his side to get a big win. He was extremely solid in midfield – winning back possession on numerous occasions with 4 interceptions and moving it all over the park superbly. Created some good chances – including a big one for Olmo late on before Croatia’s comeback started – but not rewarded for that.
But showcased impressive leadership to maintain composure in his squad during extra-time and inspire them to get the goals required to get into another comfortable position. Busquets operated like a Rolls-Royce in midfield today and worked really hard to keep things ticking in midfield. His best performance in a long time.
Pedri (7.5) –
The Barcelona youngster makes history in becoming the youngest ever player to start in a European Championship knockout tie today. Plays a brilliant through-ball to put a goal-scoring chance on a plate for Koke in the 15th – but robbed of an assist by poor finishing. To make things worse, it was his backpass that was botched by Simon for the OG officially accredited to Pedri (even if it was basically all on Simon).
Apart from that forgettable moment, Pedri was a real livewire in Spain’s midfielder. Got into tight spaces really well and helped progress the ball into the attack superbly. Worked admirably well under pressure and put in a real mature performance despite his age in the historic day.
Koke (7.0) –
Playing as the most advanced midfielder, Koke definitely doesn’t do his reputation any good by missing a sitter in a 1v1 situation with the goalkeeper in the 15th. However, that miss was probably the only bad thing he did all game long. His passing was was really efficient, while Koke also worked hard defensively, winning 11 duels, stealing away possession & helping his side dominate the game.
Pablo Sarabia (7.5) –
The PSG winger took an ambitious shot from a wide-angle in the 13th – only to see his attempt flutter the side-netting. But he was in the right place at the right time for the equalizer, powering in a shot past a crowded area really well. A really adventurous figure in the final third and caused timely issues with his left-footed delivery time & again.
Ferran Torres (9.0) –
The Man City man is creating all the problems with his clever movements in the final third. Played a sublime cross for Morata’s big chance before the opener – but gets robbed off an assist. Delivered Beckham-esque crosses all half long – but not rewarded for them at all. After all the trying, Torres finally gets his assist when his sweet left-footed cross was converted by Azpilicueta.
Then gets his well-deserved goal – taking a brilliant long-ball seamlessly in his path before slotting in coolly from close range. Ferran created 5 goalscoring chances in this one, tormented Croatia with his movement and played with utmost swagger. Definitely Spain’s biggest attacking threat right now.
Alvaro Morata (7.0) –
After being extremely disappointing in the group stages, Morata is determined to redeem himself in this one. Gets a big chance in the 19th but couldn’t even keep his header on target from inches away from the goal. Then skies a promising chance before half-time into the stands from outside the box. Scored in the 72nd minute – but from a blatantly offside position & saw it ruled out.
He might’ve been rubbish in normal time – but came up big in extra time with a thumping finish to put his side in the lead. Got his second wind in extra time and played really well to help his side get the win.
Dani Olmo (7.0) –
The winger got in a glorious open area inside the box in the 84th – but greedily trying to chip the goalkeeper rather than pass it cost Spain a goal. Redeemed himself by producing the cross that assisted Morata’s strike. Then plays another sweet cross to assist Oyarzabal’s strike! A real supersub display.
Pau Torres (5.5) –
Made instant impact minutes after coming on – playing an amazing long-ball to Ferran after catching the Croatia side dozed off and assisting his goal. Defensively, however, he was quite wobbly & made quite a few mistakes – that probably won’t allow him to start many games going forward.
Jordi Alba (N/R) –
Somehow allow Modric to wiggle into the box to set up Croatia’s second goal. Maintained nice energy towards the end to help his side see through a result in the end.
Fabian Ruiz (N/R) –
Helped Spain dominate possession in extra time well. Got a decent scoring chance in the 119th minute but put his shot wide.
Mikel Oyarzabal (.56) –
Produced a really nice finish from close range to give Spain a comfortable lead in extra time and net his first-ever goal in the Euros. A very proactive figure in the attack after coming on.
Rodri (N/R) –
Replaced Busquets in extra time and helped Spain see through the result in the end.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ferran Torres was Spain’s biggest attacking threat before being subbed and just a level above every other attacker on the pitch. He gets the MOTM for today.