Spain continued its domination of the U-21 Championships on Wednesday, defeating the Netherlands 3-0 behind goals from Alvaro Morata, Isco and Álvaro Vázquez.
With the win, Spain finished atop Group B with nine points and has yet to concede a goal for the tournament, while the Dutch finish second in the group with six points.
That match was largely dominated by Spain, which held 57 percent of possession and completed an impressive 88 percent of their passes, according to Who Scored. To be fair to the Netherlands, many of the team's top players—including Kevin Strootman, Ola John and Luuk de Jong—were left on the bench to rest them for the knockout stage.
The referee possibly kept Spain from a goal in the ninth minute. After Pablo Sarabia was fouled, Morata won the ball and was one-on-one with keeper Marco Bizot, but the ref stopped the action for the foul rather than playing advantage. Spain's free kick was easily saved by Bizot.
After a rather cagey first 25 minutes in which Morata was the game's most threatening player, just curling a shot over the bar in the 23rd minute, Spain would get on the board.
And yes, it was Morata who scored. A through ball intended into the box was was blocked but took a fortuitous bounce to Sarabia, who squared to shoot but instead passed to a streaking Morata on the far post. The Spanish striker had only to deflect the pass into a wide open net.
It was his third goal in as many U-21 Championship games.
The Dutch nearly equalized 30th minute. Somehow the ball deflected to Mike van der Hoorn in the box from five yards out, but with plenty of options he instead could only send his shot into the sprawling right leg of keeper David De Gea.
That missed opportunity would prove to be massive, as Isco would promptly double Spain's lead in the 32nd minute. Iker Muniain would split the defense with a lovely through ball to Isco, and the crafty Spaniard did the rest, chipping his effort over a helpless Bizot.
As Dermot Corrigan of ESPN noted, that move was indicative of why teams generally play Spain by parking the proverbial bus and hoping to strike on the counter-attack:
2-0 Spain. Muniain plays in Isco who takes a touch & slips ball home superbly. This maybe why other teams usually pack defence v La Rojita— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 12, 2013
The Dutch showed some life to start the second half, however.
Florian Jozefzoo found space in the box but just sent his shot over the bar in the 52nd minute, while De Gea would make a second incredible save of the match, just getting a hand on a booming Memphis Depay free kick to deflect it off the bar in the 57th minute.
Spain were more subdued in the second half, but they didn't hesitate to pour forward when given the chance. Álvaro Vázquez was sent free on goal in the 65th minute off a fantastic through ball but Bizot denied him his far-post chip, just getting a hand on the effort.
It was a familiar type of play in this contest, as Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph noted:
Some of the Spanish interceptions at the back and then drilled 50m passes to release attackers exceptional. Lead 2-0 66— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) June 12, 2013
On the proceeding corner, the ball bounced to Asier Illarramendi outside of the box and he let rip with a powerful shot that was destined for goal, but a brave header by a Dutch defender thwarted his effort.
The game would slow from there, with Spain more than happy to sink back defensively and protect their lead while the Dutch were unable to break through the Spanish defense.
De Gea would provide one more moment of brilliance in the 89th minute, diving to reject Adam Maher's top-shelf attempt on goal. The rebound bounced directly to Danny Hoesen, but his shot from point-blank range somehow hit the top post.
Once again, the wasted opportunity came back to hurt the Dutch almost immediately, as Sarabia picked up his second assist of the game, finding Vázquez on the back post who had the simplest of tap-ins.
It was the perfect way to cap off a truly dominating performance by Spain.
Man of the Match: Isco, Spain
Who was Man of the Match?
Sure, he only played 62 minutes in this game, but he made them count, playing the through ball that set up the game's first goal and scoring the second on a brilliant chip and an even more brilliant first touch.
He's truly a joy to watch, and it won't be long before he's regarded as one of the world's truly elite midfielders.
De Gea, Sarabia, Morata were also excellent in this game and deserve Man of the Match consideration. De Gea made three world-class saves that could have easily earned the Dutch a draw, while Sarabia and Morata joined Isco in a truly devastating attacking force.
Both teams are off to the semifinals. After winning the group, Spain will face Norway, while the Netherlands have a tougher task facing Group A winner, Italy.