Games of the Day
Croatia vs. Spain, Bordeaux, 20:00
Czech Republic vs. Turkey, Lens, 20:00
Spain – 6pts
Croatia – 4pts
Czech Republic – 1pt
Turkey – 0pts
Spain have seemingly managed to make light work of arguably the hardest group of these Championships. After securing qualification with a 3-0 drumming of Turkey, Spain move on to facing a potential Luka Modric-less Croatia.
Against Turkey, something seemed to have finally clicked for the Spanish. The combination of Nolito and Alvaro Morata produced an incisiveness that seemed lacking against the Czech’s in the first game. The glancing header by the Juventus striker was a delicate effort that needed nothing more than guiding into the back of the net after a fantastic in-swinging ball delivered by Nolito.
Whilst the second goal may have came about from a defensive error, the third goal by Spain was a thing of beauty. A simple tap in finish for Morata after a 22 pass move, it was a goal that only the Spanish could have crafted. Out of all 22 passes, the one that shone was the pass from Andres Iniesta to Jordi Alba. It was just sublime.
In one pass, Iniesta managed to remove 5 or 6 Turkish players from play as his wonderfully weighted slide pass found Jordi Alba just entering the box. It was a lovely passage of play and if Spain can maintain this level of performance then they will undoubtedly playing football in France come the 10th July.
Croatia, by far the next strongest team in this group, will have to pick themselves up for the tie against Spain after their capitulation against the Czech Republic. Credit must be given when due, and the Czech’s certainly were the better side once Milan Skoda scored in the 75th minute but Croatia had matters more pressing than football to deal with.
Whilst the loss of Luka Modric played some part in the Croats ability to control the game, the sight of seeing Croatian fans fighting each other in the stands as flares rained down from the terraces was as strange as misunderstood in this country. Aleksander Holiga, in the aftermath of this game, wrote an incredibly enlightening piece on the social situation in the Croatia currently where such protests would hardly come as a surprise for any fan who happen to follow Croatian football.
For the purpose of this preview however, the focus is on the football and when the trouble began, it was clear to see that the scenes affected the Croatian players (in particular Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic who tried to calm the crowd down). With their creator-in-chief off the field, Croatia seemed punch drunk by the goals and the events in the stands.
It must be said that I thought Mark Clattenburg dealt fantastically well with the situation but for Croatia the damage was already done. It will be intriguing to see how Croatia can bounce back against Spain in a game where a performance could be far more beneficial than a result.
With Turkey and the Czech Republic fighting out amongst themselves for a slim shot of knock out football, it’s all eyes to Bordeaux to see who will top the group.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog