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Euro 2012 Match Report: Croatia 0-1 Spain

By Rob
Monday 18th June 2012
Spain reached the quarter finals of Euro 2012 with a 1-0 victory over a plucky Croatian side, in a game that the holders could, and possibly should, have lost.

Croatia missed a couple of gilt-edged chances and were denied a stonewall first half penalty before substitute Jesus Navas fired in a close range winner for the world champions.

Despite pundits constantly waxing lyrical about Spain's tiki-taka style football, but a well set out Croatian side successfully stifled them and, with a little bit of compsure, could easily have knocked them out.

The Spanish defence looked shaky throughout the match when Croatia attacked them, spearheaded by the impressive Mario Mandzukic. Neither team really threatened the goal through a tame first half, with Spain only threatening the goal from distance through centre halves Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos.

But Croatia rightly felt hard done by when they were denied a penalty. Mario Mandzukic broke free down the right hand side, looked to jink past the often rash Ramos, who lunged carelessly into a tackle and clearly sithed the striker down. Yet somehow the pointless fifth or sixth referee, or whatever he is, behind the goal somehow failed to see it despite being just a few yards away. Vedran Corluka argued his side's cause and was booked to add to his incredulity.

The second half saw Croatia create a number of great opportunities, but falling short each time. On the hour mark the lively Luka Modric broke free down the right wing, paused to allow teammates to get into the box and delivered a delightful cross to the back post with the outside of his right foot. Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic was on the end of it with a free header but only managed to head the ball straight at Iker Casillas, when anything headed downwards would surely have resulted in a goal.

The Croatians came close to breaking the deadlock through two chances from substitute Ivan Perisic, but the Dortmund midfielder was wasteful on both occasions. But just two minutes before the Spaniards killed Croatia's dream Corluka was clearly dragged back in the box by Sergio Busquets and should have been awarded a penalty - but yet again Spain got away with it.

Just two minutes later a moment of brilliance from Cesc Fabregas saw him flick the ball over the defence to put Andres Iniesta clean through on goal. The little midfielder brought the ball down on his shoulder and squared to Navas to slam the ball home from two yards. But, when Fabregas' ball was played Navas was clearly offside and managed to get himself back onside once Iniesta played him in. Surely this must have been offside, as otherwise a striker could stand well offside all match and wait for an opponent to pull the ball back to them and score.

Spain may well have progressed as group winners but they looked far from convincing in tonight's victory and their draw with Italy. The Italians could easily have beaten Spain, as could Croatia, so it's clear that they are not as totally invincible as many people would have you believe.

The Spanish defence looks rattled when you get at them and their full-backs in particular are not strong defensively. Cue Theo Walcott, if England manage to qualify against Ukraine that is. Furthermore, the Spaniards' bizarre obsession on playing without a striker - tonight they removed Fernando Torres to make way for winger Navas - seems a misguided tactic that stifles their creativity, which you have to imagine a better side, say Germany, would punish them for.

Total articles: 69

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