Spain 3-0 Croatia: Impressive La Roja make convincing statement

First-half goals from Álvaro Morata, Fabián Ruiz and Dani Carvajal gave Spain victory over Croatia in Group B.

Spain put on a clinical display to beat Croatia | Getty Images

Spain got their UEFA EURO 2024 campaign off to a flying start as first-half goals from Álvaro Morata, Fabián Ruiz and Dani Carvajal secured a 3-0 win against Croatia in Berlin to open Group B.

Key moments

29′: Morata slots Spain into lead
32′: Fabián Ruiz doubles advantage
41′: Gvardiol goes close
45+2′: Carvajal touches home third
52′: Livaković brilliantly denies Yamal
80′: Simón saves Petković penalty

Match in brief: Silky Spain put down a marker

Álvaro Morata opened the scoring for Spain | Getty Images

With these two sides facing each other in a fourth consecutive EURO finals, it was Spain who triumphed for a third time against familiar opponents with a ruthless and slick attacking display.

After dominating the early stages, La Roja took the lead 29 minutes in, Fabián Ruiz threading a wonderful pinpoint pass through to Álvaro Morata, who made no mistake to coolly finish for his seventh EURO finals goal for his country, three of them coming against Croatia.

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Just minutes later, Fabián Ruiz went from provider to scorer, twisting and turning in the box before firing into the bottom-right corner to put Spain in total control.

Croatia responded well to that quickfire double, Joško Gvardiol stinging the fingertips of Unai Simón and Ante Budimir mere centimetres away from getting on the end of the rebound.

Lamine Yamal (left) became the youngest player in EURO history | Getty Images

But Spain’s 16-year-old winger Lamine Yamal made history by becoming the youngest player to ever feature at a EURO, and it was the teenager who created his side’s third goal just before half-time, his wicked cross turned in by Champions League final scorer Dani Carvajal to cap off a superb first period from Luis de la Fuente’s side.

Yamal was in the thick of the action again at the start of the second half, with only a brilliant reflex save from Dominik Livaković denying him the honour of also becoming the youngest EURO scorer.

Croatia were handed a lifeline when Rodri brought down substitute Bruno Petković in the box with ten minutes to go, but Simón guessed correctly to dive to his right and save the forward’s effort from the spot.

Vatreni will now dust themselves down and go again against Albania on 19 June. Italy are next up for Spain the day after and, after such a convincing display, La Roja fans may just be beginning to dream of a return to Berlin’s Olympiastadion for the final on 14 July.

Vivo Player of the Match: Fabián Ruiz (Spain)
A really good game. He was always supporting in the build-up, he assisted Morata for the opener and scored a wonderful goal himself.
UEFA Technical Observer panel

abián Ruiz created an assist and scored for Spain | UEFA via Getty Images

Graham Hunter, Spain reporter
People will talk about the vivacity of this display, about Fabián Ruiz’s brilliant first half and about the audacity of a 16-year-old like Lamine Yamal re-announcing his phenomenal talents. But I’ll stick with the tenacity, the intensity – a Spain side working doubly hard to tuck away a fierce opponent.

Elvir Islamović, Croatia reporter
After the victory against Portugal a week ago, the start of the EURO brought Zlatko Dalić and his side back down to earth. Many things didn’t work, from defence to attack, and perhaps most notably in the midfield, where Croatia were supposed to be strongest. This might be why he substituted the core of his team –captain Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić – after just 65 minutes, which is a rare sight. Following this result, Dalić will surely make significant changes to the line-up for the match against Albania, which is now clearly a decisive game Croatia must win.

It was a disappointing day for Luka Modrić and his Croatia side | Getty Images

Reaction
Luis de la Fuente, Spain coach: “I am very happy for everyone who has worked so hard to get to this point. This group are ambitious and it is a huge family, so I’m delighted for everyone. But we must keep our feet on the ground. We’ve started well, which gives us a bit of security, but now we need to think about Italy.”

Fabián Ruiz, Spain midfielder: “The most important thing is that we won. The assist was important, but so was the goal. I thought the team did really well. We did what we wanted to and worked very hard for it. We achieved everything we wanted as a team, which is important.”

Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach: “It is not a good start, but I congratulate Spain on the victory. We lacked energy and aggression, and conceded the first goal from a mistake. However, there are two games until the end of the group stage. We have to turn our attentions towards them and look for two victories.”

Luka Modrić, Croatia midfielder: “It’s not the result we were hoping for, but it is what it is. We still have two more matches to improve and make up for it. In the first half, we weren’t ourselves; we lacked energy and stood too far from their players. They punished us for it.”

Key stats

Dani Carvajal added a third for Spain | Getty Images

Spain have now lost just one opening match in their previous 12 EURO appearances (W6 D5) – the sole defeat coming against Norway at EURO 2000 (L 1-0).
La Roja have kept seven clean sheets in their last nine EURO group stage matches.
De la Fuente’s team have scored three goals or more in six of their last seven matches.
Álvaro Morata is now the joint-third top scorer in EURO history, with his seven goals putting him level with Antoine Griezmann and Alan Shearer.
Lamine Yamal became the youngest player to ever feature at a EURO aged 16 years and 338 days, beating Poland’s Kacper Kozłowski, who previously held the record (17 years and 246 days).
Croatia lost just the third of their last 13 EURO group stage matches (W7 D3).
It was only the third time they have failed to score in their last 15 EURO group stage matches.
Luka Modrić has now appeared in five EURO final tournaments for Croatia. His total of 14 appearances overall is more than any other Croatian player.
Line-ups
Spain: Unai Simón; Carvajal, Le Normand, Nacho, Cucurella; Pedri (Olmo 59), Rodri (Zubimendi 86), Fabián Ruiz; Yamal (Torres 86), Morata (Oyarzabal 67), Williams (Merino 68)

Croatia: Livaković; Stanišić, Šutalo, Pongračić, Gvardiol; Modrić (Pašalić 65), Brozović, Kovačić (Sučić 65); Majer, Budimir (Perišić 56), Kramarić (Petković 72)

Next up

Spain vs Italy – Thursday 20 June, Gelsenkirchen
Croatia vs Albania – Wednesday 19 June, Hamburg

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Featured images: Spain put on a clinical display to beat Croatia | Getty Images

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