Ever since the advent of “tiki-taka”, Spain’s matches more often than not have devolved into pass-happy, boring, low-scoring affairs. And their first two games at these Euros, a 0-0 draw against Poland and a 1-1 draw against Sweden, certainly followed that pattern. But they hit Slovakia for five in the third game, and now they have repeated that trick against Croatia as well, though having to do so in extra time after allowing two goals in the last five minutes of regulation, including the equalizer from former Chelsea prospect Mario Pasalic.
Earlier, Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta, who started back-to-back games for Spain for the first time in five years, also scored a rare goal (his first ever for the national team) by nodding in a cross from Ferran Torres early in the second half. That looked to be the winner for much of the game, especially after Torres added a third, but the late flurry from Croatia meant we had 30 minutes of bonus football.
Spain took care of business swiftly in extra time, with former Chelsea flop Alvaro Morata producing a rather fantastic finish into the roof of the net in the 100th minute, before Mikel Oyarzabal made sure of the win a few minutes later.
That was certainly a less ignominious finish than Spain’s opening goal, scored by Pedri into the wrong net, giving Mateo Kovacic & Co a precious early lead. Kovacic would play 80 minutes while Azpi would see out all 120.
He should be starting yet again when Spain take on the winners of France and Switzerland in the quarterfinals on Friday.