Croatia 0 – 1 Spain

Man of the Match: Gordon Schildenfeld The Croatian defender was outstanding all game, as part of a unit that denied Spain clear-cut opportunities all game. Not the quickest, Schildenfeld was always in the right position to clear the ball or to steal possession from his opponent and will consider himself terribly unlucky to have been on the losing side. The 27-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt defender will have won himself some admirers with his performance.

Croatia verdict: Croatia were tactically excellent and only conceded to the Spaniards once they were pushing forward in a desperate search for a winner. Slaven Bilic sent his team out to frustrate Spain and they did so right from the start, but it was also the little fancied Croatians who created the better chances. Luka Modric was magical once more, while Ivan Strinic and Vedran Corluka performed magnificently once more.

Spain verdict: Spain were insipid and uninspired in attack. They eventually made a breakthrough, but for the rest of the encounter they never threatened to cut through Croatia. Iniesta and Xavi, the duo who are so lauded for Barcelona, were far from their imperious best, whilst Fernando Torres barely had a sniff of goal in his hour on the pitch. Full-backs Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arbeloa must greatly improve if Spain are to challenge for the tournament as they were caught out of position on a regular basis.

Could do better: Spain As described above, the Spanish performance was far from the standard we have come to expect from them. Every player in the side was below their normal level, with only Sergio Ramos and Jesus Navas as exceptions. Croatia had a game-plan that stifled Spain and the Iberians had no response, until Croatia were in desperate need of a goal to qualify. The World Champions have much to improve on if they are to defend their title.

Stat attack: The match marked Cesc Fabregas’ sixth appearance as a substitute at a European Championship, with only Aron Winter having done so more (7).

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