Alvaro Morata and Unai Simon redeemed themselves with a late goal and a series of brilliant saves, respectively, to help seal Spain’s place in the Euro 2020 quarter-final against Switzerland in St. Petersburg.
The thrilling contest got off to a slow start. Chances were at a premium for both teams till the 20th minute before Spain custodian Simon calamitously misjudged a routine back pass from Pedri. The ball went straight into the back of the net for one of the most bizarre own goals ever seen at the Euros as Croatia went ahead against the run of play.
Spain soon equalised when Pablo Sarabia found the back of the net in the 38th minute. La Furia Roja pushed forward into the Croatian box in numbers. Jose Gaya’s initial shot was saved but was lashed into the net by the Paris Saint-Germain man.
After the break, Spain moved the ball effectively in the final third and reaped the rewards when Cesar Azpilicueta gave them the lead with a fine headed goal.
Luis Enrique’s men enjoyed the bulk of possession and doubled their advantage 19 minutes later. Jose Gaya went down with an injury, and the whistle was blown, Croatian players took the break to rehydrate. But before they could react, Pau Torres quickly sent a long ball towards Ferran Torres, who beat Domagoj Vida and bulged the net with a crisp finish.
Spain were firmly in the ascendancy, but the game was far from over. Substitute Mislav Orsic pulled one back for Croatia in the 85th minute from close range before he turned provider for Mario Pasalic’s injury-time equaliser.
Simon redeemed himself for his first-half gaffe with a remarkable save to deny Andrej Kamaric early in extra time before Morata restored Spain’s lead with a rocket left-footed strike in the 99th minute. Four minutes later, Mikel Oyarzabal also scored to give Spain a two-goal lead for the second time in the day, one they didn’t relinquish.
GAME. OF. THE. TOURNAMENT. pic.twitter.com/cH3Vd52uk8— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 28, 2021
Dani Olmo hit the post a minute from the final whistle, but Spain had done enough by then to confirm their place in the last-8 at Euro 2020. On that note, let’s take a look at the five talking points from the eight-goal thriller in
#5 Spain’s Unai Simon add to the own-goal tally at Euro 2020
Had the game not turned out the way it did, Unai Simon’s moment of madness would’ve been the biggest talking point of the game. Fortunately, for the Atheltic Bilbao goalkeeper, he redeemed himself with some quality saves in the latter stages of the game, and the game saw seven more goals scored after his blunder.
Ninety-nine times out of hundred, Simon would’ve launched the ball forward from that back pass. But on the day, he misjudged the flight of the ball and missed it with his right foot. Simon could only watch on helplessly as the ball trickled into an unguarded net
Interestingly, it was the ninth own goal at Euro 2020, the same number scored in the history of the European Championship before this edition.
#4 Spain’s young attackers finally live up to their billing
Spain had scored just one goal in their first two games at Euro 2020, with both games ending in draws. Critics pointed out that despite dominating possession, the former European champions lacked decisiveness in the final third.
Fingers were pointed, especially at Alvaro Morata, who missed a few sitters in the two games. But the three-time champions turned things around in the final group-stage game, scoring five without reply against Slovakia, though two were own goals.
La Furia Roja again produced a five-star show against Croatia, with five different players registering themselves on the scoresheet.