Ferran Torres stood out, but Ante Rebic was poor, as Spain came from a goal down to beat Croatia 5-3 in a pulsating UEFA Euro 2020 Round of 16 tie on Monday.
The first quarter of the game was all Spain, who hogged the ball almost entirely and created a couple of brilliant chances to take the lead. However, the deadlock was broken against the run of play, with Croatia going ahead out of absolutely nothing, as Unai Simon made a meal out of a back pass by Pedri, with the ball ricocheting off his boot and into the net.
Spain seemed to be rattled post that moment but soon regained composure before pulling back on level terms through Pablo Sarabia, who has now scored in successive games. The first half ended 1-1, and post the interval, La Roja continued to push forward relentlessly. Spain did get the lead they deserved early in the second half, as Cesar Azpilicueta headed in a cross from Ferran Torres.
Spain continued to dominate the proceedings and got the third in the 77th minute, with Jose Gaya sending in a long pass that was met by Ferran Torres, who produced a composed finish to make it 3-1. However, Croatia got a glimmer of hope with five minutes left in regulation time, as Mislav Orsic somehow found the back of the net through a melee, thereby setting up a frantic finale.
There was time for more late drama, as Mario Pasalic headed in a cross from Orsic to make it 3-3 and send the game into extra time. Ten minutes into the second period, Spain went two ahead for good, as Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal converted two sublime crosses by Dani Olmo, as La Roja got some much-needed breathing room.
This time around, there was no drama in store, as Spain clinched a hard-fought 5-3 win to book their place in the UEFA Euro 2020 quarter-finals, where they will face the winner of the game between France and Switzerland. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both sets of players.
Dominik Livakovic: 6/10
A hard-working display by Livakovic, who made several saves right out of the top drawer but was still unable to inspire Croatia to a big win. Could not have done anything to deny Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta or Ferran Torres for their goals. Did his best, but that was not enough after all.
Josip Juranovic: 5/10
A difficult outing for Juranovic, who had his hands full with Sarabia and Ferran Torres. Struggled to contain either wide man and one such occasion, a cross from Torres was converted by Cesar Azpilicueta. Did win four of the five duels he contested but should have done better to stop the crosses.
Domagoj Vida: 5/10
A tricky outing for Vida, who managed to keep Alvaro Morata fairly quiet but could not manage to keep the Croatia defence organised enough to stop Spain from scoring their five goals. Made four clearances and completed most of his attempted passes but ought to have done much better with one of his primary tasks.
Duje Caleta-Car: 5/10
A busy evening for Caleta-Car, who completed numerous clearances (5), interceptions (4) and tackles (3) but also left a lot to be desired with his defending in crucial moments. Lost Mikel Oyarzabal for the fifth Spain goal.
Josko Gvardiol: 4/10
Starting yet again at left-back, Gvardiol showed that there is a lot for him to learn before he can make the position his own. Struggled against whoever he faced up against in the game, be it Pablo Sarabia, Ferran Torres or Dani Olmo, while also being directly culpable for one of the goals scored by Spain.
Luka Modric: 6/10
One of the players in focus in the preview, it was a difficult outing for Modric, who struggled to advance into the Spain half due to some relentless pressing by Luis Enrique’s men. His influence can be best seen by the fact that Croatia enjoyed their best spell in the game late on when Modric was heavily involved in the final third, getting themselves back in the game.
Marcelo Brozovic: 5/10
Quite an exasperating game for Brozovic, who just could not manage to keep Pedri and Spain’s attack quiet. Did complete 90 percent of his attempted passes but needed to do so much more to force Croatia into the game in crunch periods.
Mateo Kovacic: 5/10
Usually a dependable figure in the middle of the park, Kovacic struggled to get to grips with the pace of the game at times. During his stay on the pitch, he managed just 39 touches, spending much of his stint off the ball while struggling to contain Spain.
Nikola Vlasic: 5/10
With Ivan Perisic unavailable, Vlasic was given a chance to impress. However, the 23-year-old struggled to force his way into the game. Did manage one shot, but that was as good as it got for him in an evening to forget.
Bruno Petkovic: 5/10
Leading the line for Croatia against Spain, Petkovic put in the hard yards and did also manage 22 touches on the ball but never really got into a scoring position. Taken off at half-time as Zlatko Dalic sought more mobility out in front.
Ante Rebic: 4/10
A game to forget for Rebic, who appeared to be one of the more purposeful performers for Croatia. However, that came to nought as he was utterly wasteful with the ball at his feet and did nothing of note in the final third. Has to do much better, considering he is the key man in attack for Croatia.
Andrej Kramaric: 6/10
On for Petkovic at half-time, Kramaric continued right from where the player he replaced left off. Left isolated at times, although he did force Unai Simon into a couple of saves.
Mislav Orsic: 8/10
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 28, 2021
On for Rebic, Orsic made his maiden appearance at UEFA Euro 2020 and proved to be an upgrade on the incumbent and was involved in the chance with which Gvardiol tested Unai Simon. Orsic, though, showed his real value late on, as he scored Croatia’s second before setting up the equaliser for Mario Pasalic. Tried his best, but in the end, it was not enough.
Josip Brekalo: 5/10
On for Juranovic, Brekalo settled in as a right-back in the latter stages of the game but continued to struggle just as the incumbent had. Ought to have done better to keep Alvaro Morata at bay for the fourth goal scored by Spain.
Ante Budimir: 6/10
On for Kovacic, Budimir hardly saw the ball in the final quarter of an hour or so. Did aim a shot at goal in extra time but failed to get involved as much as he would have liked to.
Mario Pasalic: 7/10
On for Vlasic, Pasalic went on to score the equaliser in the dying embers of injury time of regulation ninety-minute period, producing a brilliant headed finish to make it 3-3.
Luka Ivanusec: N/A
On for Modric, Ivanusec barely had any time to make an impact, with Croatia not managing to script another comeback.
Unai Simon: 4/10
An embarrassing evening for Simon, who was left red-faced when Croatia took the shock lead after making a meal of the back pass by Pedri. Lucky to not be credited with the own goal. Otherwise, he was hardly called into action, although he did make one fine save to deny Josko Gvardiol.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
A game to remember for Azpilicueta, who was solid as ever at the back and kept Ante Rebic in check. The game, though, proved to be memorable for a moment in the final third, as the Chelsea captain popped up inside the Croatia box to head in the second for Spain – his first ever goal for his national side.
31 – César Azpilicueta, who has scored his first ever goal for Spain (27th cap), has become Spain’s oldest ever goalscorer at the European Championships (31y 304d). Timing. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/4vfeas0CuY
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 28, 2021
Eric Garcia: 6/10
Despite Spain’s dominance in the game, this was a busy outing for Garcia, who was made to put in the hard yards at the heart of Spain’s defence whenever Croatia threatened. Saw a lot of the ball and recycled possession smartly, completing 96 percent of his attempted passes. Job well done.
Aymeric Laporte: 6/10
Yet another start and yet another game wherein Laporte was hardly put under pressure by the opposition. The latest Spain debutant, though, did well to ensure efficient build-up plays by completing 94 percent of his attempted passes.
Jose Gaya: 6/10
Back in the starting lineup in place of Jordi Alba, Gaya was typically enterprising in his display, crafting a fair few moves from the left flank. Picked up a knock with around 15 minutes left in the game and hobbled off before being replaced by Alba.
An absolute workhorse in the middle of the park, Koke was here, there and everywhere at times. That being said, he ought to have done better when set up by Pedri instead of tamely shooting straight at Dominik Livakovic. Still in search of his first Spain goal, but he came utterly close this time around.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
The other Player in Focus in our preview, Busquets, was typically classy in his performance, pulling the strings effortlessly while keeping Luka Modric at bay for the most part. Completed 90 percent of his attempted passes while making four interceptions and as many tackles. Even played a key pass in what was largely a solid display, the late Croatia onslaught notwithstanding.
Pedri continues to grow in stature within the Spanish national side, and this was another step in the right direction for the prodigious midfielder, who was one of the more creative players on the pitch. One defence-splitting pass towards Koke stood out, and he played 2 key passes in the game while showing tremendous awareness in link-up play. Extremely unfortunate to be credited with the own goal.
Ferran Torres: 9/10
100% aerials won
100% tackles won
100% crossing accuracy
4 chances created (most)
2 big chances created (joint-most)
Obscene output. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/V96c1LIkif
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 28, 2021
Recalled to the starting lineup in place of Gerard Moreno, Ferran Torres was a bundle of energy on the right flank and created several fine chances as well. In particular, his crossing was quite delightful, to say the least, and one of those pinpoint deliveries set Azpilicueta up for the second Spain goal. Then scored Spain’s third with a brilliant turn and finish.
Alvaro Morata: 7/10
As has been the case of late, Morata continued as the first-choice striker for Spain but did not really justify his position. Showed some neat touches at times but profligate in front of goal, failing to convert one glorious chance with his head. Did finally find the back of the net in extra time, as he collected a fine cross by Dani Olmo before scoring the fourth for Spain.
Pablo Sarabia: 8/10
Coming on the back of a fantastic performance against Slovakia, Sarabia was clearly brimming with confidence. The 29-year-old was heavily involved in most moves that Spain created and got his team back on level terms with a thumping strike. Played a couple of key passes while misplacing just four attempted passes. Justifying his place in the side.
Dani Olmo: 8/10
On for Sarabia in the 71st minute, Olmo did not get many opportunities to make a difference in the latter stages of regulation time. However, he stamped his authority and gave Luis Enrique some food for thought, as two peachy crosses in extra-time created the two goals that swung the pendulum in favour of Spain for good.
Dani Olmo is the first player to assist 2+ goals in a knockout game at #EURO2020.
He did it in the space of just three extra-time minutes too. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/tjhn5CVChx
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 28, 2021
Pau Torres: 5/10
On for Eric Garcia, Torres floated the lovely long pass that Ferran Torres converted for the third Spain goal. However, he ended up being quite disappointing with his defensive output on the defensive front, as he was underwhelming in the late goals scored by Croatia and forced the extra time.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Sent on in place of the injured Jose Gaya, Alba did not get many opportunities to express himself, with Croatia in the ascendancy late on. Managed one key pass while defending diligently.
Fabian Ruiz: 6/10
On for Koke, Ruiz did not see a lot of the ball, with Spain creating most of their moves from the flanks. Did ensure he completed most of his attempted passes to keep Spain in control.
Mikel Oyarzabal: 6/10
A late introduction, Oyarazabal was not involved much before the end of regulation time. But, he did make his mark on the game, converting a cross by Olmo to round off the win for Spain.
On for Busquets, Rodri was fairly solid in extra time, helping Spain remain in front late on.