Croatia vs. Spain: 5 Things We Learned from Group C Decider
The Spanish advance as group winners and will find out who their quarterfinal opponents will be when the results of tomorrow's Group D games are finalized.
The side, led by Luka Modric, made things tough for the defending champions throughout most of the game and gave us a few things to think about in the process.
Here are five things we learned from this Group C decider.
Luka Modric Auditioned Well
Luka Modric played well throughout the game despite the result. He showed some great moves on the ball to get himself out of trouble a number of times.
His cross to find Ivan Rakitic in the second half should have resulted in a goal, but such was the luck of his side.
Modric was good throughout the entire tournament and, unlike some other stars who have been linked to big moves, he may have increased attention in his services.
With Harry Redknapp gone from Tottenham and the team playing in the Europa League, the North London side may have a tough time keeping hold of the midfield playmaker.
Dilemma Up Top for the Spaniards
Fernando Torres cannot receive too much criticism for not getting on the score sheet before being substituted against Croatia.
Spain were up against a well-marshaled Croatian defense that didn't really open up until the team tried to go for the win about 30 minutes away from relegation.
Torres and Cesc Fabregas lead the scoring for Spain with two goals each, but it's the Barcelona midfielder who has had a bigger impact on offense. It was his exquisite lob that led to the Spanish goal in this game.
Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque has to decide between these two and it may just depend on Spain's opposition. He could spring a surprise with the inclusion of Fernando Llorente, who has yet to play a minute in this tournament.
Spain's Attacking Depth Will Be Key
Jesus Navas, Santi Cazorla, Alvaro Negredo and Javi Martinez have all been used as substitutes in Spain's games so far and it seems that Cesc Fabregas has returned to his role on the bench.
Three players who have yet to appear in this tournament are Juan Mata, Fernando Llorente and Pedro Rodriguez.
Jesus Navas provided a little spark against Italy, while Fabregas came off the bench to score against Ireland and both players played their part in the team's win over Croatia.
In this game especially, it showed just how good it is for Spain to have such players to call on from the bench.
With all that talent within the squad, Spain's opponents will have a tough time keeping them out throughout the tournament.
Croatia Took the Wrong Approach
It may have been Slaven Bilic's plan from the start or it may have been due to Nikica Jelavic struggling with a fever (via Goal.com) but Croatia's defensive mindset did not help them against Spain.
They did well to keep the Spaniards out for as long as they did, though Spain's inefficiency in front of goal played its part in that.
Relying on the counter is not the best way to play against Spain. While Croatia did have their chances, they had to deal with a world-class keeper in the form of Iker Casillas.
Croatia should have known that Italy would get the result they needed against Ireland and that the best way to go through was to win.
Spain Are the Team to Beat
Germany may have won all three of their games but considering the way they have played, Spain are the team to beat.
They handled Italy well even though they were unable to make the breakthrough, they did exactly what was expected against Ireland and they worked their way to a win against Croatia.
Folks may not be too impressed with their selections in the forward line but their ability to keep possession makes them strong favourites in any game. Even without a clinical threat up top, they are still the top team.
They had some nervy moments at the back in this game but eventually dealt with all danger. Again, their style of play helps in this area and, interestingly enough, they have the best defense in competition at the moment with only one goal conceded.