The Hoops made it to their sixth successive semi-final of the EA Sports Cup last season when they defeated Longford ...Tue, Apr 24 2018
Ivan Perisic scored an 87th minute winner to give Croatia a dramatic 2-1 win over reigning European Champions Spain in Bordeaux.
It was Spain's first loss at the Euros since the 2004 tournament – a run of 14 matches – and it is a loss which has huge repercussions as it allowed Croatia to leapfrog La Roja to the top of Group D, thus condemning Vincent del Bosque's side to the more difficult side of the last-16 tree.
Spain will now face Italy in a knock-out phase that could potentially also pit them against Germany and France before reaching the final. Croatia, meanwhile, will face a Portugal side yet to win in these Euros in a game which sees Real Madrid teammates Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo face off against each other.
More importantly, the winner of that encounter can rightly believe that they will have what it takes to reach the final as that side of the tournament tree features Switzerland/Poland, Wales/Northern Ireland and Hungary/Belgium.
This was an exciting game, one that both sides wanted to win from the outset, with 28 attempts on goal shared fairly evenly between them (13 for Croatia and 15 for Spain). Though Spain, as is their wont, dominated the possession stats, Croatia looked to be the more ruthless of the sides in front of goal, also hitting the woodwork.
Yet it looked like it would go the other way when Spain took the lead after just seven minutes. An excellent move saw David Silva and Cesc Fabregas combine, with the latter crossing the ball across the face of goal for Alvaro Morata to tap in from close range for his third goal of the tournament.
To their credit, Croatia didn't let the concession rattle them and almost had a glorious equaliser to their name in the 14th minute. A mistake from David De Gea saw him gift the ball to Ivan Rakitic outside the box. The Barcelona man produced a perfect chip, the ideal combination of loft, power and pace, to leave everybody – even the chasing Gerrard Pique – beaten.
It bounced back off the crossbar, almost hitting the fully stretched and committed Pique in the process. It landed back in a very relieved De Gea's hands.
Croatia battled manfully to ensure Spain didn't get the foothold in the game they wanted, fashioning some chances for themselves too. Yet when they equalised on the stroke of half-time it was still something of a surprise. Perhaps just because it's Spain.
Perisic worked some space for himself on the left-wing with some neat trickery to check back inside his man and deliver a right-footed cross. Nikola Kalinic did the rest with a clever improvised finish with his heal from inside the six yard box. It was the first time De Gea had conceded in a competitive international for Spain.
Yet when Spain got a penalty in the 72nd minute for a Sime Vrsaljko foul on Silva, it looked like normal service would resume and that they would get the leverage they needed to go on and win the game.
However, Sergio Ramos hit a poor effort down the middle and the Spanish skipper could only look on in anguish as Danijel Subasic saved it. Skipper Srna had imparted some words of wisdom to the Croatian 'keeper before the kick was taken and they clearly worked, with Subasic laughing afterwards.
Ramos would waste headed chances either side of this penalty miss, which is uncharacteristic of a man who has made scoring big game goals for Real Madrid a habit in recent seasons. He would live to rue those passed up opportunities as, against the run of play, Croatia took the lead with just three minutes left on the clock.
Croatia broke at pace, with Kalinic playing it into the rampant Perisic. He had a few chances on the night, but this time his left foot shot beat De Gea, albeit with the aid of a slight deflection off of the sliding Pique.
There was little to no time for Spain to recover and they went on to lose in the Euros for the first time since Portugal beat them back in 2004. For Croatians everywhere, with this win comes the belief that maybe they can do something really special in the latter stages.
Croatia: Danijel Subasic; Darijo Srna, Vedran Corluka, Tin Jedvaj, Sime Vrsaljko; Ivan Perisic (Andrej Kramaric, 90+4), Marko Rog (Mateo Kovacic, 82), Milan Badelj, Marko Pjaca (Duje Cop, 90+2); Ivan Rakitic; Nikola Kalinic.
Subs not used: Lovre Kalinic (GK), Ivan Vargic (GK), Mateo Kovacic, Ante Coric, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic, Gordon Schildenfeld, Mario Mandzukic, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic.
Bookings: M Rog (29), D Srna (70), S Vrsaljko (70), I Perisic (88).
Spain: David De Gea; Juanfran, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Cesc Fabregas (Thiago Alcantara, 84) Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta; David Silva, Alvaro Morata (Aritz Aduriz, 67), Nolito (Bruno Soriano, 60).
Subs not used: Iker Casillas (GK), Sergio Rico (GK), Marc Bartra, Cesar Azpilicueta, Hector Bellerin, Mikel San Jose, Koke, Lucas Vazquez.
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers.
Extratime Man of the Match: Ivan Perisic (Croatia).