Spain 3-0 Croatia #EURO2024

Spain 3-0 Croatia #EURO2024. Spain made an emphatic start to their quest to win a fourth European Championship with an impressive victory over Croatia at Olympiastadion Berlin.

First-half goals by Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz and Dani Carvajal essentially settled the outcome before the break and, although Croatia offered little, this must still go down as a statement win for La Roja.

Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal became the youngest player in Euros history when he started the game at the age of 16 years and 338 days, but it was Spain’s most experienced player who gave them the lead, silencing the Croatia fans who poured into Germany’s capital this weekend.

Ruiz collected the ball on the halfway line and had time to look up and thread a perfect pass for Morata to gallop through and slot past Dominik Livakovic for his 36th goal for his country.

After waiting almost half an hour for the breakthrough, Luis de la Fuente’s side took just over three minutes to extend their lead.

This time, it was Ruiz who found the net, beating two men when he was fed the ball on the edge of the area and firing in a shot that nicked off Josip Sutalo on its way past Livakovic.

Croatia came close to pulling a goal back when Josko Gvardiol’s drilled shot beat Unai Simon but also eluded Ante Budimir, who tried to divert it in as it flew wide of the far post.

But Spain continued to attack and wrapped up the points in first-half stoppage time when Yamal’s cross was turned home by Carvajal, who had stayed up following a corner.

A goal for the teenager to go with that assist was all that was missing, with Livakovic superbly denying him from close range early in the second half.

Croatia’s disappointing day got even worse when Bruno Petkovic saw his late penalty saved by Simon and then the video assistant referee disallowed his follow-up for encroachment into the area.

The 2022 World Cup semi-finalists must try to kickstart their Group B campaign when they face Albania in Hamburg on Thursday, the same day Spain face holders Italy in a mouth-watering clash in Gelsenkirchen.

Around 100,000 Croatia fans have come to Berlin this weekend, taking over huge swathes of the city in their distinctive chequered shirts.

They were in party mood before the game started, particularly when their team’s icon Luka Modric emerged to warm up, but they saw little to make them smile once it was under way.

It took them 22 minutes to manage either a shot or a touch in the Spain area and, aside from the penalty, awarded after Rodri tripped Petkovic as he was about to shoot, they forced Simon into only two meaningful saves.

Along with Mateo Kovacic, Modric ended up being substituted after 66 minutes – perhaps to save their legs – with the 38-year-old failing to provide his customary spark.

By then, it was the small pocket of Spain fans inside the Olympiastadion that were making all the noise.

Their captain, Manchester City midfielder Rodri, had said before the tournament that he sees his side as being “serious candidates” at these Euros – and this was a performance that proved they mean business in Germany.

As well as their attacking flair, they were alert and resilient at the back, with their determination underlined by Marc Cucarella’s brilliant block to stop Lovro Majer’s goalbound shot in the second half.

There are sterner tests to come, starting against Italy, but this was a convincing way to begin their campaign.

source – BBC

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