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Posts tagged ‘croatia’

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FT Croatia 0 – 1 Spain

FT Croatia 0 – 1 Spain

Spain are unchanged after reluctantly accepting that playing a striker increases your chances of scoring goals, even when that striker is Fernando Torres. Croatia have left out a striker: Everton’s Nikica Jelavic is replaced by who-cares-who-he-plays-for-he’s-not-English-based’s Domagoj Vida in a reshuffled side, with Slaven Bilic presumably wanting to keep the 4-2-3-1 that worked so well in the second half against Italy. Danijel Pranjic also comes in for Ivan Perisic on the left of the attacking midfield triumvirate.

At 88′, Fabregas, under no pressure from a tired back four, played a delicious scooped pass to put Iniesta through on goal. He eschewed the pass, of course, instead laying it square past Pletikosa for Navas to walk it to within six inches of goal before hammering it gleefully into the net. The Art Project has its justification; they have actually walked the ball in. I thought Navas was offside after Iniesta’s touch, but replays show he was level. Iniesta’s two touches were masterful: he stretched to control the ball with his left breast and then, before Pletikosa had set himself for the shot never mind anything else, stabbed it gently past him for Navas to score. 1-0 for Spain.

Croatia are out of Euro 2012, while Spain go through as group winners. They did it their way, wearing Croatia’s defence out with tiki taka before applying a killer blow at the death. It was uncomfortably close, though, and Croatia had a couple of significant opportunities: Rakitic missed a great chance and they should have had a penalty with four minutes to go and the score 0-0.

Croatia’s gameplan was immaculate, given the quality of their opponent, but you need more than just an immaculate gameplan to beat this remarkable Spanish team. You can argue all night that their approach is reducing the effectiveness of a great team, yet it will still take something close to a perfect storm for anybody, even Germany, to beat them. They will play the runners-up in Group D.

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FT Italy 1 – 1 Croatia

FT Italy 1 – 1 Croatia

Italy won a softish free-kick on the edge of the area at 41′, a fair way to the left of centre, after Balotelli was challenged by Rakitic. Pirlo has always been a master at getting it up and down from 18.00001 yards, and he did it again with a beautiful free-kick that went over the wall and right in the corner at the near post. Pletikosa got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out. That was an effortlessly suave free-kick from one of the most elegant footballers in the world.

At 72′, Mandzukic scored a goal for Croatia. This is a really poor goal to concede as well. Strinic, aided by Vukojevic’s overlapping run, swerves a long cross towards the far post, where Chiellini hopelessly mistimes his jump. It goes straight over his head, allowing Mandzukic to pull it down deftly, six yards from goal, before ramming it above the sprawling Buffon and in off the post. That was a cool finish because most forwards would have hit that first time

That was a fair result in an enjoyable game. Croatia fought back excellently in the second half, aided by Italy’s excessive caution, and a draw keeps both teams alive going into the final match. Croatia have four points to Italy’s two, but I still think Italy are in a slightly better position.

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FT Rep. Ireland 1-3 Croatia

All goals were made by Mandzukic (2 goals), Ledger, and Jelavic. Well played by Croatia.