Ivan Perisic scored in the 89th minute to condemn Spain to a second place finish in Group D as Croatia wrapped up the group as leaders.
Spain’s bid for a third consecutive European title may be in jeopardy now as they will take on Italy on Monday. It is a repeat of the Euro 2012 final and some night that would be for the football world. Revenge perhaps?
Vincente Del Bosque had named the same starting lineup that saw off the Czech Republic and Turkey. You don’t change a winning team, right? It looked set to pay off straight from the whistle – Spain looked comfortable with Andres Iniesta and David Silva and Cesc Fabregas marshaling proceedings and in just eight minutes, they were 1 up. It was one of the most beautiful moves the competition had seen – Spain broke through with pace and Silva made an immaculate pass, somehow leaving the ball in an area he knew Fabregas would run into. The Chelsea man did the hard bit, bundled the ball over the on rushing goalkeeper but Alvaro Morata made sure the ball was in with the faintest of touches. Poacher’s goal.
Spain looked destined to run with it after that but defensive frailty was sure to cost them – first a mistake for captain Sergio Ramos who gave the ball away cheaply, then another mistake by David de Gea who played with a back pass in the area and the ball fell to Ivan Rakitic, whose chip hit the bar, post and finally down on to the goalline but refused to go in. Warning signs. Croatia finally found a way through before the break. Perisic crossed from the left and the ball fell kindly for Nikola Kalinic who did the rest with a nice flick.
Spain were uncomfortable from that point on and a couple of spurned opportunities followed and for the first time, the Spanish were far from clinical. They were gifted with a golden opportunity with 20 minutes left when a cross came from the left and the referee assumed he saw a clear push by Sime Vrsaljko on David Silva. Surprisingly, Ramos stepped forward to take the kick, in a team that boasted Iniesta, Fabregas and Silva. Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic was yards off his line before Ramos hit he ball. The other Croat players were in the box too, clear infringement on both sides but the penalty was never re-taken. Justice maybe?
Spain tried one last attack they shouldn’t have in the closing stages. When the move was halted, the ball was released for Kalinic who raced toward the Spanish half and laid the ball on for Perisic who had ran beside him. His low shot, although helped by a little deflection should never have beaten De Gea at his near post but he did as Vincente Del Bosue’s men suffer a first defeat at the Euros since 2004.
In the other Group D game, Turkey beat the Czech Republic by 2 unreplied goals. Turkey’s victory means Turkey will wait on today’s result to see if they will qualify. The result also guarantees Northern Ireland go through from Group C.