Clinical Croatians sink defending champs
In the final stage of Group D matches, Croatia stunned the defending champions 2-1 at Nouveau Stade Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France.
After a disappointing 2-2 draw with Czech Republic, Croatia made 5 changes to the squad while the reigning champions came into the match with an unchanged squad after putting up a strong show against Czech and Turkey.
Early in the 8th minute, Spain scored out of the first opportunity of the game when David Silva made a wonderful move to pass the ball in the centre which Fabregas collected after a fabulous run. Fabregas chipped through Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic and Morata tapped in it. With the goal, Morata scored his third goal of the tournament and joined Gareth Bale as the top scorer of Euro 2016.
Just two minutes later, Spain almost scored their second when Silva put up a cross towards Nolito whose volley went just wide.
Despite Spain’s early inroads, Croatia fought back exceptionally well as they created good moves in the Spanish half and troubled the Spanish defence and keeper De Gea. In the 12th minute, Ivan Rakitic put a good ball in for Nikola Kalinic who struck the ball from outside the box but De Gea got his hands to it.
Again in 14th minute, Rakitic’s luck ditched him when his powerful strike hit the bar.
The Croatian defence closed down really well as they made it difficult for the Spanish to cut through and blocked many of their attempts.
Croatian efforts got rewarded just before the break, in the 45th minute, when Perisic did some beautiful work on the left to put a cross in for Kalinic, who wonderfully positioned himself losing Ramos and back-heeled the ball in.
The game was even rocked by a few controversies. In the 58th minute, Marko Pjaca did intricate work in the Spanish leg and tripped over Ramos’ stretched leg. Croatians appealed for penalty but the referee took no heed to their call. Subsequently, in the 71st minute, David Silva went down in the Croatian box with a push from Sime Vrsaljko and Spain were awarded a penalty. Croatians appealed against the decision debating that Vrsaljko himself took a push from behind.
Nevertheless, Ramos stepped up to take the penalty and Danijel Subasic saved it. The dispute came from the fact that Subasic was well off his line when he made the save.
Thereafter, Spain clearly looked frustrated while Croatia kept making advancements. In the 88th minute, following a close move by Spain, Croatia broke out on a counter and Kalinic carried the ball upfield while Perisic ran beside him. He laid off the ball for Perisic on the left who shot the ball beating De Gea to the near post.
In spite of Spain’s powerful performance in the first two games, what worked in favour of Croatia was their back line formation that didn’t permit Spain’s intrusion. With the win, Croatia qualify as the toppers of the group with 7 points and Spain go through as the second string with 6 points.