Saturday, July 24, 2021

Croatia 3-5 Spain: Main Talking Points As Spain Progress Thanks To A Thriller In Copenhagen

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, European Championships 29 Jun 2021

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On what was a stunning night of knockout action from across Europe throughout Monday, neutrals were not disappointed as Spain managed to book their spot in the knockout stage thanks to an action-packed meeting in Copenhagen.

In a round of 16 showdown that will live long in the memory, the former world champions managed to come past what was a resilient Croatia and ended The Blazers’ fairytale ending thanks to a pair of late strikes in extra-time.

Throwing away the lead in what turned out to eventually be an eight-goal thriller in Denmark, we have taken a look at the major talking points as Spain and Croatia played out a European Championship classic in front of 22,771.

Simon & Morata redeem themselves

Managing to lay down their first marker of the summer thanks to that 5-0 win against Slovakia in their Group E finale last week, many across Europe expected Spain to breeze their way to the quarter-finals in a routine fashion on Monday evening.

Eventually having to settle for a second-place finish after showing some extended issues in their back-to-back stalemates against Poland and Sweden earlier in the month, Luis Enrique’s side had to show their resolve after a nightmare opening in Copenhagen.

With Unai Simon failing to control Pedri’s 49-yard back pass midway through the first-half in what was a comical moment, the former Barcelona boss saw the pressure really mount on what could have been another major tournament failure.

However, with the Athletic Bilbao keeper later redeeming himself after a fabulous save to deny Andrej Kramarić in extra-time, Simon was not the only Spanish star who managed to find some joy after what has been a horrendous tournament both on and off the pitch.

Missing a golden chance in the first-half with a free header, Alvaro Morata smashed home Spain’s penultimate goal with a wonderfully taken strike in extra-time and really managed to silence his critics.

With no player at this summer’s tournament missing more chances than the one-time Chelsea striker, Morata revealed before the match that his family have been threatened as a result of his performances.

Croatian heartbreak

Throwing away the lead after their first-half gift and watching Pablo Sarabia, César Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres storm the Spanish into a 3-1 lead heading into the final 15 minutes, few expected what was a remarkable comeback by Croatia.

Largely failing to build off of their success out in Russia three years ago and watching a number of their most iconic stars withdraw from international selection, The Blazers showed their resolve after a grandstand finish in Copenhagen.

With Head Coach Zlatko Dalić making a string of crucial second-half subs, Mislav Oršić and Mario Pašalić sent the crowd into overdrive as they bagged two goals in the final five minutes to complete what was a stunning turnaround on foreign soil.

Despite watching Spain dominate large spells of proceedings, Luka Modric’s inspired squad created a host of clear-cut chances and could have finished the game off in extra-time had Kramarić had put the ball either side of Simon with just minutes left.

Although Croatia might not have managed to complete what would have been a European fairytale on Monday evening, there is no doubt that the former World Cup finalists produced a performance that would have given them something to build off.

What’s next for La Roja?

Although Luis Enrique would have been far from pleased by his side’s defensive display on Monday evening, La Roja were overall deserving of their spot in the quarter-finals and they now face what could be another all-action meeting later in the week.

While Spain and Croatia might have opened Monday’s knockout tie in Copenhagen with that stunning all-out display, they were not the only nations who put on a fixture that will live long in the memory of fans across Europe.

With Switzerland putting in nothing short of another monumental display against defending world champions France later in the day, Kylian Mbappe missed the final spot-kick after The Swiss snatched two last-gasp goals to wrap up another famous 3-3 draw in Bucharest.

Watching both Holland and Les Bleus depart the tournament in what was a shock fashion over the past few days, some in Spain’s inexperienced squad might be fancying their chances of going all the way this summer.

Knowing that one of England or Germany will also be given their marching orders from this year’s delayed tournament after a mouth-watering showdown at Wembley on Tuesday evening, La Roja find themselves now priced at 3/1 with Betfair to lift their fourth European crown next month.

Match Report

Croatia: Livakovic (5.5), Juranovic (6), Vida (6), Caleta-Car (5.5), Gvardiol (5), Modric (8), Brozovic (6.5), Kovacic (7), Vlasic (6.5), Petkovic (6.5), Rebic (6.5)

Subs: Brekalo (6), Ivanusec (6), Budimir (6.5), Pasalic (7), Kramaric (6.5), Orsic (8)

Spain: Simon (6), Azpilicueta (8), Garcia (4.5), Laporte (4.5), Gaya (6), Koke (8), Busquets (7), González (7), Torres (7.5), Morata (7), Sarabia (6.5)

Subs: Torres (6), Alba (6), Ruiz (5), Rodri (5), Oyarzabal (7), Olmo (7)

Goals: Croatia: González (20′ og), Orsic (85′), Pasalic (90’+2′) – Spain: Sarabia (38′), Azpilicueta (57′), Torres (76′), Morata (100′), Oyarzabal (103′)

Yellow Cards: Caleta-Car, Brozovic

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Cüneyt Çakir

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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