Croatia are through to the last 16 at EURO 2016 after topping Group D after a fantastic 2-1 win over Spain in Bordeaux on Tuesday night…
Having already qualified for the round of 16 thanks to Germany beating Northern Ireland in the early kick off, Croatia coach Ante Čačić had the luxury of resting a number of players and made five changes from the starting line up from the opening matches against Turkey and the Czech Republic. The injured Luka Modrić and Mario Mandžukić, and Domagoj Vida, Marcelo Brozović, and Ivan Strinić made way for Šime Vrsaljko, Tin Jedvaj, Marko Rog, Marko Pjaca and Kalinić.
Spain, who were unchanged from their convincing win against Turkey looking obviously to top Group D, started strong and opened the scoring in the 7th minute of the match after Silva pierced the Croatian defence with a cutting through ball to Fabregas who chipped across the face of the goal for Morata for the simplest of finishes.
Croatia had a couple of chances to draw level not long after as Kalinić tested De Gea with a powerful shot from outside the box. A minute later Ivan Rakitić came closer after a defensive error the Barcelona midfielder chipped De Gea from the edge of the box but he could only watch his attempt crash against the crossbar.
Spain began to control possession and created a few half chances, but they lacked precision in the final third. Croatia always looked like they could get back into the match and the equaliser came on the stroke of half time when Kalinić delightfully flicked in a Perišić cross from the left.
Croatia opened the second half with more possession and could have taken the lead in the match in the 56th minute after good work on the right from Srna saw his cross come free in the box. First it was Jedvaj who had his shot blocked, then Pjaca saw his overhead kick go wide.
In the 62nd minute Croatia had a strong penalty shout turned down after it appeared Pjaca was bought down in the box after a mazy run. Ironically Spain had a penalty shout at the other end given a few minutes later when Vrsaljko was ruled to have bought down Silva in the box. Justice was served however when Danijel Subašić saved Ramos’ spot kick.
Croatia fought bravely in the second half and deservedly took the lead in the 87th minute when one of Croatia’s stars of the tournament, Ivan Perišić, found space down the left after a lay off from Kalinić and drilled a magnificent effort past a hapless De Gea in the Spanish goal to make it 2-1.
Croatia managed to hang on in added time to record a wonderful victory and top Group D.
“Luka told Darijo who told me that Ramos will go right with the penalty and he did and I was in the right place. Penalties are a lottery and I managed to save it. We fought well tonight and deserved the win, we all fight for the jersey,” heroic keeper Subašić said after the match.
CROATIA 2-1 SPAIN
(Kalinić 45′, Perišić 87)
CROATIA: Subašić – Srna, Ćorluka, Jedvaj, Vrsaljko- Badelj, Rakitić – Pjaca (Čop), Rog (Kovačić), Perišić (Kramarić)- N. Kalinić
SPAIN: De Gea – Juanfran, Piqué, Ramos, Alba – Busquets, Iniesta, Cesc, Silva, Nolito – Morata