3 things we learned from Croatia v. Spain

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Spain beat Croatia in an eight-goal thriller to reach the EURO 2020 quarterfinals, as the game was full of incredible comebacks and momentum swings.

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Goalkeeper Unai Simon somehow scored an own goal to put Croatia ahead but Pablo Sarabia equalized before half time then Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres put Spain 3-1 ahead but Croatia fought back incredibly late on.

Mislav Orsic scored with five minutes to go and Mario Pasalic scored in stoppage time to make it 3-3 and push the game to extra time, as Simon then made a fine save before Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal scored to hand Spain a 5-3 win.

The dramatic victory for Luis Enrique’s side sets up a quarterfinal against France or Switzerland in St. Petersburg on Friday. Croatia still haven’t won a knockout game at the European Championships.


3 things we learned: Croatia – Spain

1. Spain’s attack on fire: Spain created so many chances in their first two group games but couldn’t put them away. Then their offense exploded. Spain have become the first team in European Championship history to score five goals in back-to-back games, and it was only a matter of time. Spain dominate possession and now they just need to keep putting chances away. Alvaro Morata scored a beauty too as his fine hold-up play helped knit together the entire Spanish attack.

2. Unai Simon recovers admirably: After his horrible mistake to score an own goal early, what incredible character Unai Simon showed. He made a brilliant save in extra time to deny Croatia when it was 3-3 and they were on top, and he made a few other very good saves in the second half too. The Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper stood tall after a very difficult moment. Superb resilience.

3. Brave Croatia run out of steam: They gave it all they had but the age of this Croatian side just caught up with them, especially in midfield and defense. Modric did everything he could to drag them back into the game but they missed Perisic and missed some big chances. Croatia continue to punch above their weight, but a lot of this squad will be in their 30s the next time the Euros roll around. Will they have new emerging stars as good as this current crop by then?

Man of the Match: Pedri – Always wanted the ball and despite his pass on the own goal, had a superb game. Ferran Torres was excellent too.


Spain started brightly as Pablo Sarabia slammed into the side-netting, and after patient build-up play and a lovely slotted pass, Koke was clean through but he was denied by Dominik Livakovic when he should have scored.

Following a fine Ferran Torres cross, Alvaro Morata then headed straight at a Croatia defender when he should have scored.

Spain were flying. Then they weren’t. In a big way.

Just inside his own half, Pedri played the ball back to Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon and he somehow missed his kick and the ball hit his shin and went in for an own goal.

Nobody could believe it.

Spain recovered well and equalized before half time as the ball pin-balled around the box and eventually fell to the brilliant Sarabia who slammed home.

The Spaniards took the game to Croatia in the second half as Sarabia’s effort at the back post was blocked.

They then took a deserved lead as Ferran Torres whipped in a cross and Chelsea captain Azpilicueta arrived in the six yard box and headed home.

Croatia then had a big chance but Simon stopped Josko Gvardiol down low to keep Spain ahead.

Spain then thought they had wrapped up the win as a long ball found Ferran Torres who skipped past the defender and slotted home to make it 3-1.

But Croatia fought back with five minutes to go. And how.

After lovely play from Luka Modric to bamboozle the Spanish defense, he cut the ball back and Orsic bundled it just over the line to set up a wild finish.

Croatia then equalized in stoppage time in normal time to spark wild scenes in Copenhagen among the huge number of Croatian fans.

A cross from the left found Pasalic and he nodded home to make it 3-3 and send the game to extra time.

In extra time Unai Simon made a superb stop to deny Andrej Kramaric, as the Spanish goalkeeper blocked the effort from close range and Spain cleared.

Spain then went up the other end and regained the lead.

A cross from the right found Morata at the back post and he controlled and smashed home to make it 4-3.

Substitute Mikel Oyarzabal then finished off a cross to push Spain further ahead and this time they held onto that lead.

Ante Budimir wasted a great chance as he was set free but dragged his shot inches wide, as Spain held on to win comfortably in extra time and should have scored six or seven.