Croatia snatch top spot with late defeat of Spain

Croatia dramatically snatched top spot in Euro 2016 Group D away from Spain Tuesday with a last-gasp 2-1 defeat of the holders in Bordeaux.

Alvaro Morata - who is tournament joint top scorer - gave Spain an early lead only for Croatia to turn the tables with goals from Nikola Kalinic and, finally, man-of-the-match Ivan Perisic. 

Spain captain Sergio Ramos had a penalty well saved by Croatia keeper Danijel Subasic.

Croatia - who played without stars Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic - finished with seven points, Spain with six.

This means that Italy will face Spain in the round of 16 Monday in a repeat of the 2012 final that Spain won 4-0.

Meanwhile, Croatia will go into the supposedly easier side of the knockout bracket and will face one of the third-placed teams in the round of 16 Saturday.

"We were a bit lucky tonight, admitted former striker Davor Suker, who is currently president of the Croatian football federation.

"But maybe we did deserve to win, because we took our chances while Spain wasted theirs."

Meanwhile, Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic said: "Quality is not always the only thing needed to win at football, effort and spirit are also important.

"We showed tremendous spirit tonight, nobody can deny that ... Now we have to wait and see who our opponent will be for Saturday."

Meanwhile, Spain boss Vicente del Bosque tried to put a brave face on things by saying: "We are not eliminated, we are still in the competition.

"Maybe we are now in the difficult half of the bracket but all the opponents are difficult at this stage ... We will now have to start thinking about Italy."

Spain captain Ramos, meanwhile, said: "It was a very strange match. We had the chances to finish them off, including my penalty, but we failed to do so.

"This is what can happen in football, when you don't put away your chances."

Turkey finished third with three points, with a 2-0 defeat of the Czech Republic in Lens and will have to wait to see if they go into the round of 16 as one of the four best-placed third teams.

In Bordeaux, everything started well and nothing suggested an eventual defeat in a bright first 30 minutes.

Morata gave them the lead in the seventh minute after a clever combination down the right between David Silva and Cesc Fabregas.

However, Croatia managed to weather the early storm and Kalinic levelled for them just before half-time by flicking in a perfect centre from the impressive Perisic.

It was the first goal that Spain had conceded at the Euro finals, including 2012, in eight matches.

Spain dominated the second half and got a dubious penalty 20 minutes from time, but Subasic did well to save Ramos' poor spot-kick.

Croatia came out of their shell towards the end and Perisic hit an unlikely winner on the break with his sweet left foot just four minutes from the end.

Last update: Wed, 22/06/2016 - 11:57
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