The 88th minute Jesus Navas goal was legitimate. The key is Iniesta receiving Cesc Fabregas’s perfectly measured chip in an onside position, chesting it and side-footing it to Navas who was free to move because he was not the primary target. The Croatians played a high line and were caught in a pincer. By the way, it would have been interesting if Fabregas had chosen Navas because he looked marginally offside. That would have been controversial.
We had picked Croatia to advance with Spain and everything they did today reinforces lady luck dealt them a bad hand. Wolfgang Stark should have called a penalty when Sergio Ramos brought down Mario Mandzukic with a studs up tackle as he entered the box (Check 4:39 in the video clip of the 1st half highlights).
Croatia’s tactics were perfect and they looked dangerous when they attacked. Ivan Rakitic had two great looks at goal which were oh so very close all through the ministrations of Luka Modric who was every bit as equal as Xavi and Iniesta till that bit of Fabregas magic. It was a tight, cagey affair, very absorbing, with Spain remorselessly dominating the ball with the end product missing. They call it sterile domination.
Fernando Torres again showed why one match cannot be like the other. Every time he looks like he’s solved the puzzle, another piece shows up. It’s time to dust off Fernando Llorente or the Basques are going to take this personally.
The fix was not in as Italy feared. The 2004 Euro was traumatic when Denmark and Sweden forged a Scandinavian pact to keep Italy out with their 2-2 draw.
Well played Croatia and Slaven Bilic. Here are his thoughts on his team’s performance:
“But I’ve said before that we were here to win the Euros, and tonight we failed. The fact that we performed admirably is not much of a consolation. We didn’t come here to make a good impression, but to get a result.”
This was Bilic’s last managerial appearance for the national team. He moves to Lokomotiv Moscow later this summer with Igor Stimac, his 1998 World Cup partner in the backfield taking over.