Croatia played some impressive football to script a wonderful victory against Spain, score reading 2-1, on Tuesday. Ivan Perisic scored the winning goal in the 87th minute to hand Spain their first defeat of Euro 2016. With this result, Croatia topped the group and Spain finished second, which means the La Rojas will face Italy in the round of 16.
This result could have been different had Sergio Ramos converted a penalty in the second half. To be fair, Croatia looked a better team in both ends of the field, and deservedly won the match.
Vicente del Bosque, Spain manager, fielded a strong team, showing how keen they were to defeat Croatia, and top the group by picking their strong eleven. Del Bosque's opposite number, Ante Cacic, after Croatia's disappointing 2-2 draw against Czech Republic, made as many as five changes, and their players did not disappoint with a stunning game of football for 90 minutes.
The game was always expected to be an exciting one, with both teams inclined towards possession-based football, and it was Spain, who took lead with Alvaro Morata scoring the opening goal in the seventh minute. That was Spain's first real attack on goal, which was converted as well.
However, Spain defence were not up to the mark in the first fifteen minutes, and Croatia nearly equalised after an error from goalkeeper David de Gea. Ivan Rakitic, who tried an audacious chip, hit the cross bar, which must have provided huge relief to the goalkeeper. This was one of the first match, where Spain got tested. Their last two opponents -- Czech Republic and Turkey -- did not ask too many questions.
Though Spain had scored first, Croatia were gradually applying pressure, threatening to score. However, Cesc Fabregas provided a perfect ball to Morata, whose first touch was heavy and a chance went begging in the 43rd minute. But there was no mistake on the other end from Nikola Kalinic, who equalised for Croatia in the 45th minute. They deserved that goal as they played some solid football in the first half.
There was nothing to choose between the two teams in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, as they were playing some good football. But, it was Croatia, who was inching towards a goal from both flanks, primarily Darijo Sarna on the right side was a constant threat.
On the other hand, Spain were not able to penetrate Croatia's defence, who were making life tough for Del Bosque's men. Spain got a golden chance to regain the lead, when they were awarded a soft penalty, but Ramos' shot was saved by Danijel Subasic, who was well off his line when he made contact with the ball.
It was quite surprising to see the Real Madrid defender take that spot kick when players like Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta were still on the pitch. That miss cost Spain badly as Perisic scored the all-important goal of the night in the 87th minute. It was his second goal of Euro 2016, which won the game for Croatia, and played an important role in deciding the group standings as well.
Spain, after conceding that late second goal, lost the match, and finished the group in second place. Croatia clinched top spot, and they deserved it, especially after their clinical performance against Spain.