Ivan Perisic and Nikola Kalinic completed an amazing Croatia comeback, setting up Italy v Spain in the Round of 16, after Sergio Ramos missed a penalty.
This match was crucial for Italy fans, as the runners-up in Group D will face the Azzurri in Paris on June 27.
Although Vicente del Bosque’s men were already qualified after two victories, they named an unchanged line-up. Croatia lost Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic to injury, resting Marcelo Brozovic, as they were already through with the chance to go top with a victory.
It didn’t take long to break the deadlock, as Cesc Fabregas ran on to a David Silva through ball and allowed Alvaro Morata to tap in from a yard. It was his third goal of the tournament on the day Real Madrid announced they’re bringing him back from Juventus for €30m.
Fiorentina striker Nikola Kalinic stung David De Gea’s gloves and Ivan Rakitic somehow failed to score with an extraordinary lob that hit both the crossbar and post following a defensive howler.
Nolito’s cross-shot was flapped away from Gerard Pique and Morata, while Silva drilled wide and Ivan Perisic’s towering header was over from a Darijo Srna cross.
Croatia got their equaliser with a spectacular finish from Fiorentina’s Kalinic, who flicked in a Perisic cross off the outside of his boot from four yards. It was the first goal holders Spain had conceded for 735 minutes of European Championship football, since Antonio Di Natale for Italy on June 10, 2012.
Croatia grew in confidence and risked taking the lead, as Tin Jevaj’s effort was charged down after De Gea’s ineffective punch and Marko Pjaca had penalty appeals waved away for a Ramos trip.
Sergio Ramos turned a free header wide and Spain were awarded a very soft penalty, as Sime Vrsaljko seemed to be nudged into the back of David Silva by Aritz Aduriz. Ramos stepped up and saw his spot-kick beaten away by Danijel Subasic, who was a long way off his line. It meant Spain had failed to score four of their last seven penalties at the Euros, excluding shoot-outs.
The situation got even worse for Spain, and indeed Italy, because at the 87th minute Inter winger Perisic sprinted up the field on a Kalinic assist and beat De Gea at the near post to give Croatia the lead. That put them top of the group, so as runners-up Spain will face Italy in the Round of 16.
With the final kick of the game, a David Silva cross-shot was practically cleared off the line.
Croatia 2-1 Spain
Morata 7 (S), Kalinic 45 (C), Perisic 87 (C)
Croatia: Subasic; Srna, Corluka, Jedvaj, Vrsaljko; Rog (Kovacic 82), Badelj; Perisic (Kramaric 94), Rakitic, Pjaca (Cop 92); Kalinic
Spain: De Gea; Juanfran, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Fabregas (Thiago Alcantara 84), Busquets, Iniesta; David Silva, Morata (Aritz Aduriz 67), Nolito (Bruno Soriano 60)
Ref: Kuipers (NED)
Saved penalty: Ramos 72 (S)