UEFA Euro 2016
Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France
71′ Ramos missed penalty
Croatia secured top spot in Group D after coming from behind to beat defending European Champions Spain 2-1 at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux.
Former Blackburn Rovers striker Nikola Kalinić cancelled out an early Álvaro Morata strike on the stroke of half-time before a late goal, three minutes from time by Ivan Perišić gave the Croats the victory after Sergio Ramos had a second-half penalty saved by Danijel Subašić to inflict a first European Championship defeat for Spain since 2004 where they were defeated by hosts Portugal. The defeat for the Spaniards meant that they would finish second in the group and will face Italy in the last-16, in what will be a repeat of the 2012 Final where the Spaniards thrashed the Italians 4-0 to retain their European Championship title.
After a brief spell of early Croatian pressure, Spain started well and took the lead with virtually their first attack of the game. David Silva wonderfully picked out Cesc Fàbregas with a nice disguised-pass whose goal-bound effort was tapped home by Morata who made sure.
A minute later, Spain went close to a second when a Jordi Alba cross found Nolito, who flicked the ball just wide.
However, within minutes, Croatia went close to levelling the scores. After Ramos lost possession, Kalinić received the ball before he forced David De Gea into a good save from a powerful strike, with the Manchester United keeper having to palm the ball behind for a corner. From the resulting corner, Croatia went close with Perišić heading the ball onto the roof of the net.
Two minutes later, Croatia very nearly drew level. After De Gea lost possession right on the edge of his own area to Kalinić, the loose ball fell invitingly to Ivan Rakitić whose lobbed effort hit both the crossbar and the post and ricocheted off Piqué but somehow it didn’t go in.
It looked as though Spain were going to head into the interval with the lead, however, Croatia had other ideas and levelled with almost the last kick of the half. Perišić did well to shift the ball onto his right foot and send in a dangerous cross that fell to Kalinić who did well to get ahead of Ramos and flick the ball home from a back-heel past De Gea. It was the first goal that Spain conceded in 12 and a quarter European Championship matches.
After the break, Spain went close to taking the lead in the 53rd minute when Silva found Alba who then pulled the ball back across the near-post to Morata who fired just wide under-pressure.
Three minutes later, Croatia nearly went ahead when a dangerous cross from Darijo Srna was punched into the path of Tin Jedvaj whose volleyed effort was smothered by the feet of De Gea before the loose ball was acrobatically volleyed just wide by Marko Pjaca.
In the 66th minute, Ramos had a great chance to put Spain ahead when he met a Silva corner with a header, but he could only head wide when he should have scored.
Five minutes later, Spain were given a golden opportunity when Silva was adjudged to be fouled by Šime Vrsaljko in the penalty area. Although there was very little contact and the contact looked completely accidental, the referee pointed to the spot. Ramos had the brilliant chance to take advantage, however, his powerful spot-kick was too central and Subašić made the save, although the Croatian keeper was over two yards off his line. Regardless, justice was served.
Croatia took full advantage of Ramos’ missed penalty and went ahead three minutes from time. A Croatian counter-attack saw Kalinić find Perišić free on the left and the Inter Milan winger received the ball before drilling home an effort that took a slight deflection off Gerard Piqué from a tight-angle to beat De Gea at his near-post to put the Croats ahead, although De Gea really should have saved it.
Spain were desperate not to be beaten and very nearly got a last gasp equaliser when Silva found space in the penalty area and looked set to score when he fired the ball across Subašić but he was to be denied by Vrsaljko, who made a fantastic last-ditch goal-line clearance to block the effort away.
That was the last action of the match as Croatia held on to beat the defending European Champions to secure top spot in Group D.
The result meant that Croatia secured top spot on seven points, whilst Spain finish in second on six points and will face Italy in the last-16. Turkey finish in third and will wait and see whether they are one of the four best third-placed teams whilst the Czech Republic bow out on one point. The result also means that European Championship debutants Northern Ireland will qualify for the last-16.