Game in a sentence
Croatia worked hard to shut down the defending European and World champions, but they were foiled by a late Jesus Navas strike, eliminating The Blazers from Euro 2012 while Spain top Group C with seven points.
- From the beginning, Croatia looked confident and organized while maintaining their stamina. Most teams who face Spain usually have to cope with fatigue, but the Croatian defenders worked tirelessly for the full ninety minutes.
- Spain’s wide players, particularly Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Alvaro Arbeloa, did very well whenever they had the ball along the flanks or countered up the pitch with pace, but they weren’t able to penetrate the Croatian penalty area as much as they would’ve liked to.
- It took Spain twelve minutes to penetrate Croatia’s penalty area, and they only did so a total of seven times, significantly less than in their match against Ireland.
- That can be credited to the performance of Gordon Schildenfeld, who closed down an invisible Fernando Torres and restricted Spain to four on target shots which were handled routinely by Stipe Pletikosa.
- The majority of Croatia’s chances came from the counter attack, but with Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique playing more defensive as opposed to the Spanish fullbacks, Mario Mandzukic or Ivan Rakitic couldn’t muster up a clean attempt.
- The second half brought more of the same, but Croatia started to get more shots on Iker Casillas’ goal and defended even better than they did in the first forty-five minutes.
- After an abysmal showing by Fernando Torres, who was being frustrated by Schildenfeld, he was substituted for Jesus Navas. He moved out to the right and David Silva moved into the center, making a similar 4-6-0 formation that Vicente Del Bosque played in La Roja’s opener against Italy.
- The Spanish midfield trio of Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Sergio Busquets controlled the game as expected, but it was Sergio Busquets who played an exquisite ball to Andres Iniesta, who narrowly beat the Croatian offside trap, then controlled it with his chest, passed it across to Jesus Navas who powered it into the open goal to give the champions the lead on eighty-eight minutes.
- It was a heartbreaking goal to concede because along with Italy’s 2-0 win over The Republic of Ireland, it meant that Croatia would be eliminated, and that’s exactly what happened. Despite terrific efforts in all of their games, Croatia will be going home, but credit to them for handling Spain for the majority of the game.
- Spain meanwhile will have some thinking to do as they were held to a scoreless draw and didn’t get a solid performance from their center forward. Del Bosque is a smart man though, there’s a reason why he’s won the most coveted prize in football, surely he’ll have a solution.
1. Sergio Busquets
2. Andres Iniesta
3. Gordon Schildenfeld