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Croatia faced Spain in the round-of-16 at Euro 2020, with both teams looking to continue their recent form. Both sides registered dominating wins over Scotland and Slovakia respectively to progress as runners-up from their groups.

The opening 10 minutes saw Spain dominate possession as one would have expected. Croatia were finding it hard to get a touch on the ball with La Roja content to knock the ball around. Koke had the first chance of the match, but his shot was tame and straight at Livakovic in goal. Spain’s luck got even worse just moments after.



A long back pass from Pedri was miscontrolled by Unai Simon, allowing the ball to race into the net for yet another own goal. That seemed to spark Croatia into action with Vlasic and Kovacic firing wide soon after as Spain seemed still jolted from the goal



Having weathered that storm, Spain went in search of their equalizer and deservedly found one. Jose Gaya’s shot was well saved by Livakovic but the ball came straight out to Sarabia who blasted the ball home. That was how the first half ended with a few more half chances but the scoreline remained at 1-1.



Spain continued where they left off, looking to make inroads against the Croatian defence. They were getting into good spaces down the flanks, and it was Ferran Torres’ cross that was nodded in by Azpilicueta just before the hour mark. It was the Chelsea captain’s first goal for Spain and it put his side in the lead.




Croatia were now more urgent in attack, with Gvardiol testing Unai Simon who just about held on from a close-range shot. The game got much more even-sided and after a slight break due to a possible injury to Gaya, Spain doubled their lead. A long diagonal ball found Torres on the right, running into the box and stroking it through the legs of Livakovic.



Dalic’s side, to their credit, never gave up and found a second goal with just five minutes to go. Modric made his way into the box, and his pass caused all sorts of mayhem. Azpilicueta stopped the first shot on the line but Orsic’s effort on the rebound crossed over the line.



Remarkably, Croatia found another gear with Pasalic heading in a cross from Orsic in the third minute of injury time to level things and send the game to extra time.

Simon was called into action within five minutes, throwing a strong right hand to deny Kramaric as Croatia started much more strongly. Spain went right up the other end and Culeta-Car blocked Dani Olmo’s goal bound shot.



Spain took the lead once more, as Olmo’s cross was controlled beautifully by Morata on his right foot before firing the ball past Livakovic with his left. Kramaric then had a low shot saved as the end-to-end nature of the game continued. Olmo was causing all sorts of problems on the right flank, his cross this time finding Oyarazabal who tucked him home for 5-3.



The second half of extra time was a much more sedate affair with both teams running on almost empty tanks. Croatia rarely threatened anymore and Spain even had chances to score further, but the eight goals was all there was to be.

Here are the three key takeaways from the match:



Croatia were left chasing shadows for much of the opening 25 minutes, as Spain controlled the ball and had chances to go ahead. However, a freak own goal from La Roja opened the door for some sustained pressure from Zlatko Dalic’s side looking to capitalize.

That ultimately did not lead to anything, with Spain back on the front foot and scoring the leveller just before halftime. They need to find ways to get possession more or risk being encamped in their own half again after the break.



Croatia fell behind within the hour mark after a well worked spell of Spanish possession ended with Azpilicueta heading home Ferran Torres’ cross. Though they tried to get back in the game, it was Spain who found the third goal through Torres. Croatia did manage to pull one back through Orsic and just when they thought there was to be no more, Pasalic found the equalizer in injury time.



They started the first period strongly but failed to convert possession into a goal. That proved costly as Spain scored two quickfire goals to take a 5-3 lead. The tired legs could not find a response this time around as Croatia’s journey ended in a defiant manner.



Spain started off strongly, looking for openings only to fluff their lines a bit. Possession-based football has been their forte at this tournament so it was no surprise as they continued that here. That rhythm was rudely broken by the calamitous own goal between Pedri and Unai Simon midway through the half. However, they rallied well and found their goal through Sarabia to end the half on a strong note.



They started the second half brightly with Azpiliceuta scoring in the 57th minute to put them ahead on the evening. Two became three as the game approached the final ten minutes, with Torres’ calm finish past the Croatian goal. Spain crumbled at the end, letting in two goals in the final minutes of the game to endure extra time.



The first half of extra time was frenetic, with Spain bagging two goals to effectively put the game to bed. First, Morata scored a beautiful goal to silence his critics before Oyarazabal scored his first of the tournament, both from Dani Olmo crosses. They managed the second half well to make sure there would be no surprise comeback this time, with Olmo even having time to hit the post.



La Roja have not exactly been lighting up the world with their performances so far. However, they have been clinically effective when the chances have come. Scoring five in consecutive matches is no mean feat, but against Croatia their defence was a real letdown.

That has been much of Spain’s story over the past few years as they have been frustratingly unpredictable. Their campaign will continue against either France or Switzerland in the quarter-finals and few would predict what can come of that.

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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