Sloppy Spanish slip by Croatia
Yesterday’s game between Spain and Croatia had all the makings of an absolute slobberknocker. Both teams are part of the top 10 teams in the world. Both teams have some of the most creative and deadly players in the world. Both teams should have been looking for a win to guarantee themselves a place in the quarter finals. But there was one thing neither team did, which is show up.
In recent weeks, both teams have looked more than capable, but going into this game, both seemed to be fine with a draw, even after Italy went ahead against Ireland, a result which eventually put Croatia out. There was no real pizazz about the game, no zip about the play, even Spain’s tiki-taka football was shooting blanks against the hardened wall of the Croatian defence. In stark contrast to their absolute drubbing of Ireland last week, Spain looked like a side who knew they only needed a point to go through, and honestly didn’t seem to care too much about trying to wrap up the points. Against Ireland, Spain scored inside five minutes, but against Croatia, they only managed a single half chance in the first twenty! So what was the big difference? Italy and Ireland both scored against them, so why did Spain struggle?
In my mind, it comes down to a lack of work ethic. This is a team mainly comprised by players who have won everything they need to win in their careers to be remembered as legends. Most of them are considered to be in the top 20 players in the whole world, so what do they really need to do here in Poland/Ukraine? They’ve already proven how good they are, and I think they may also be suffering from some over-confidence as well. After hammering home four goals in their last match, they could have possibly thought it was going to be as easy, but alas, it was not. In the first half, Spain had a total of six shots on target, but none were ever likely to score. There was toe-pokes, long shots from defenders, shots from ridiculous angles, and when all that didn’t work, David Silva even fluffed a chance by slipping. In the first half, the Spanish had almost 70% possession, as you would expect, but the Croatians put up such a strong defence that the Spaniards just couldn’t break it down. But even so, Croatia couldn’t do anything, because they could barely get the ball out of their half.
And in the second half, the Croatians looked the more fired up out of the two teams, with Casillas having to pull off an excellent save from a close range Rakitic header. Close chance after close chance for them, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net, and then, finally, three minutes from time, Iniesta pulled away from the defence, received a gorgeous lobbed pass from Fabregas, and squared a ball straight to Jesus Navas, who couldn’t miss the open net glaring him straight in the face.
So the Spanish are through, topping the group, and will face the runners up of Group D who play this evening, and if they show up in the same lackadaisical fashion, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them tumbling out of this tournament fairly soon!