From a match that demanded more than one straitjacket, Spain fired to the quarterfinals, where they will meet on Friday, at 6:00 p.m. in Saint Petersburg, Switzerland, the surprising executioner of France. La Roja lived a crazy afternoon in Copenhagen, after a match played on a roller coaster. A duel resolved in an extension in which the selection unleashed its last charge. Before he did the good, the regular and the worst. It is a jerky, inconsistent and unpredictable team. The same fails two penalties in the group stage that its goalkeeper has the misfortune to gift Croatia with a goal from fireworks. Spain, the same comes back with aplomb (1-3) that is left to go up without aplomb (3-3). People had taken it with Morata and it turns out that he defines a goal to frame (3-4). Monologues, memes and others were already being discussed about Unai when the Athletic man came to the aid of his team just after the extension. In this Spain nothing is what it seems. He was so distant from the goal that he has 10 in two games.
From the outset it was all a matter for Spain. Croatia gave him the ball and La Roja accepted it willingly. With his adversary buckled into the dungeons of his area, the party was a Spanish monoculture. There were only footprints on Croatian territory. Modric’s comrades did not want what he esteemed most. At Croatian feet the ball was just an uncomfortable device.
Luis Enrique’s team was enough with the gregarious will to find refuge on the ball and, from there, articulate the game. A game of solitaire that Koke almost took advantage of. Pedri, a clinician, expertly appreciated a filtered pass and summoned the mattress captain to a fencing duel with Livakovic. Koke came to the assault to the penalty spot, with the goal wide open. But the Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper struck the ball with his feet. Shortly after, it was Vida who thwarted a header from Morata. Spain had the party that it would have signed: a round table around the ball and the rival flanked on his ranch, several blocks from Unai Simón. The only thing that bothered the Athletic goalkeeper was the sun. By then …
Soccer has sudden moments. Snapshots that no one is capable of foreshadowing. There was Unai fiddling with the annoying sun when Pedri gave him the ball from midfield. The play required a kindergarten control by the goalkeeper. The man lost sight of the ball and his feet curled into a bow. How heartless football can be when it sticks its tongue out. And especially with the most hermit of footballers, the goalkeeper. Isolated in what suddenly seems like a den, with no allowance for abandonment, he ruminates on a song that will inevitably remain a stain for eternity. Such was the botch that UEFA attributed the goal to Pedri in his only shot on goal in the entire tournament. The last straw.
Unai’s bad leg gave Croatia a second wind, for a few moments somewhat more expansive. Troubled by the huge disappointment of the goal, Luis Enrique’s team held out but without going to the canvas. A shot from Kovacic and an adventure from Vlasic seemed to announce a change of needles in the future of the meeting. But the offensive game costs a world for this Croatia. In fact, it was greatly improved by the substitutes, Orsic and Pasalic.
Spain found relief when he again stepped forward. When again he gravitated on the ball and Pedri regained governance. The canary, who arrived at his first major international call as a fellow, is already a speaker today. He lacks familiarity with the rival area, but he is a watch with boots: fine, cunning to give and take, with resources to shake off opponents and with a panoramic observatory to assist. 18 years have served him to scrutinize all the intricacies of football.
Pedri came and went with that simulated air of a boy about to crack in an adult game, when after an attack with several muddles Gayà hooked a left-footed shot, Livakovic deflected the ball as best he could and Sarabia holed a whip. A unanimous dedication to Unai, retired to rest with the consolation of De Gea.
Returning from the intermission, the Spanish team started with the firmness of the beginning. And Unai, so marked for bad, ended up marked for good. The 1-2 started from the same feet that in the 1-0 they curled into a ball. Without any hesitation, the Basque stepped on the ball with temper several times, since the Croats wanted to pressure him to see if the verbenero ruling was repeated. Unai attracted several rivals, Croatia cracked and put Azpilicueta on the road. The same one that would head the 1-2 after deriving the play from the other side and centering Ferran. Merit had Unai. The same as before Gvardiol, to whose shot he responded with hands of steel.
Heartaches and more heartaches
Shirtless Croatia, Ferran sealed the 1-3 in one against. Everything seemed settled, but after an incessant roulette of changes to the Red one the reins were to him. A commotion in the area could not be avoided by the Basque goalkeeper when he wanted to get Orsic’s shot from under the sticks. The ball was already in. Minutes of anguish for Spain. Again he had to deal with another situation that could be critical after such a graceful comeback. The team lacked body, packaging, boards. Pasalic chased the 3-3 with four minutes remaining. Laporte did not arrive, Pau was delayed and Croatia was faced with its particular patio: the extensions. Three surpassed in Russia 2018 to be runner-up.
In Copenhagen the only logic was illogical. Two teams with the heart boneless before a third time of shaking here and there. Unai made a stop to Kramaric right after Orsic got kicked off by a toe. As it was a reverse game, when Croatia was grown, Olmo, an imp on the right wing, broke in. His center to Morata was swallowed by Brekalo and that of Juve, so crucified, certified a goal. He cushioned the ball with his right and left foot to the net. As everything was out of control, Oyarzabal, who had been terrifying for a while, scored the 3-5 after another spark from Olmo. Crazy.
Luis Enrique, during the match. On video, statements by the national coach after the match.
Subscribe here to our special newsletter about Euro 2021