Euro 2016: Croatia stun Spain 2-1 to top Group D, Turkey finish third with win over Czech Republic
Croatia came from behind to beat Spain 2-1 in their final Group D fixture at UEFA Euro 2016 to top the group while the defending champions finished second. In the other fixture, Turkey saw off the Czech Republic with a 2-0 win to finish third and give themselves another chance to qualify for the knockout stages.
Croatia 2-1 Spain
Croatia: Subasic; Srna, Corluka, Jedvaj, Vrsaljko; Perisic, Rog, Badelj, Pjaca; Rakitic; Kalinic
Spain: De Gea; Juanfran, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Fabregas; Silva, Nolito, Morata
With the aim of finishing top of Group D, Vicente Del Bosque named a strong starting lineup. On the other hand, Croatia were without the services of Luka Modric who was unavailable because of a minor injury.
Although Croatia’s high-pressing almost rewarded them with a shot for Srna, it was Spain who took the lead in the seventh minute through a jaw-dropping counter-attack. After recovering a deflected pass, David Silva reversed a ball through to Cesc Fabregas who had made a clever run into the box.
It forced goalkeeper Subasic to come out to block a shot which allowed Fabregas to slip it through for Alvaro Morata to tap in from a yard out. It was the Spaniard’s third goal of the tournament to lead the goalscoring charts alongside Wales’ Gareth Bale.
Croatia almost struck back a few minutes later when Ivan Rakitic tried to capitalise on a blunder from David De Gea. The goalkeeper dallied too long to control a ball with his feet allowing Croatia to win it back with the ball falling to Rakitic.
The Barcelona midfielder lobbed De Gea who was stranded in no man's land but the ball hit the crossbar, then hit the post before harmlessly bouncing out, allowing Spain to clear the danger. However, Rakitic had a poor first half by any midfielder’s standards, completing just three passes in the first 45 minutes.
La Furia Roja dominated possession and restricted Croatia to just one shot on goal in the first 30 minutes. Half the team had passing accuracy stats in the 90s and Croatia only got close through set pieces or clever crosses – none of which troubled De Gea with the Manchester United goalkeeper either thwarting the danger or watching their efforts go off target.
Del Bosque’s side looked comfortably placed just before half-time and their patient build-up almost yielded a second for Morata when Fabregas released him but his heavy touch saw the move come to nought. And they were duly punished for it at the stroke of half-time.
Ivan Perisic, one of Croatia’s best players in the first half, got the better of Juanfran on the flank and sent in a cross into the six-yard box. The cross fell too low for De Gea to collect and Nikola Kalinic sneaked in from behind Sergio Ramos to score at the near post with a back-heel volley.
Croatia were clearly adamant on topping the group themselves and were fired up at the start of the second half. De Gea suddenly looked fragile in goal and a Srna cross had him flapping wildly to clear before it fell to Rakitic whose shot was blocked. Although Badelj’s attempted an overhead kick went wide, the warning signs were there.
And Del Bosque reacted accordingly. Nolito came off after not having affected the game as much as Del Bosque who made a defensive substitute and introduced Bruno Soriano. 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz also came on for Morata as Del Bosque looked to rest his star striker before the Round of 16.
Spain were given a lifeline when they won a penalty after David Silva was brought down in the box by Sime Vrsaljko who barged into him from behind but it looked very much like a soft decision. Srna even got a yellow card for his protests before looking to Modric on the bench and then having a quiet word with his goalkeeper before the penalty.
Whatever he said worked as Subasic made the save from Sergio Ramos with the referee allowing the save to stand even though he came off his line well before the shot,
Del Bosque’s final substitution saw Thiago Alcantara come on for Cesc Fabregas as he looked to wrest back control in midfield and slow down the tempo of the game. However, it was Croatia who struck the hammer blow on the counter-attack.
Aduriz’s blocked shot near Croatia’s box saw them suddenly expose Spain’s high line with Kalinic finding Ivan Perisic out on the left. The goalscorer from the first half took his shot and a slight deflection saw the ball squeeze in between De Gea and the near post.
Croatia became the first team to beat Spain since Portugal in Euro 2004 and also topped the group while the defending champions finished second.
Czech Republic 0-2 Turkey
It was the Turkish side who took the lead 10 minutes into the game from a sweeping counter-attack that saw the Czech defence stand no chance. Emre Mor, handed a start in this game, sprinted down the right flank and had enough time to look up and spot Burak Yilmaz making a diagonal run to the near post.
Mor’s cutback was precise and took out three Czech defenders and Yilmaz took his shot first time to beat Petr Cech and give Turkey the lead. The goal also gave Cech a dubious record at Euro.
Ozan Tufan then made it 2-0 to complete the win and seal three points to finish above Czech Republic in Group D. A free-kick in the second half saw Topal flick it to Tufan whose powerful drive found the top corner to beat Cech yet again.
*Turkey will have to wait for other results to see if they qualify as one of four best third-placed teams