ESP 1:2 CRO – the performance of the tournament so far from this inspiring Croatian side who were missing their sublime playmaker Luka Modrić but showed prodigious strength in depth. Ante Čačić showed tremendous faith in youth as he sent his side out to take the game to the reigning European Champions. Despite a bright start it was the Spanish who took the lead. A sublime move that started with Gerard Piqué and six passes later ended with Alvaro Morata poaching and poking in a delightful Cesc Fàbregas cross-shot. It was a breathtaking move that embodied everything La Furia Roja stand for. The goal (and their striking away kit, that I bet thousands of teenagers are scrambling to buy online right now) failed to deter the stubborn Croats who put the Spaniards under persistent pressure across the back four. A mistake from Sergio Ramos allowed the industrious Nikola Kalinic to get away a powerful drive that David De Gea turned around the post. Then, moments later, more good pressure from Kalinic extracted another mistake, this time from De Gea, and a opportunistic chip from Ivan Rakitić hit both the bar and the post before being cleared by Piqué. The Vatreni finally got their reward just before half time when the fabulous Ivan Perišić burst down the left and measured a pin-point cross for Fiorentina’s Kalinic to apply a deft finish at the near post. Both Spanish fullbacks were guilty of poor play for the Croatian goal. It was all Croatia after the break as they looked the more likely to push for a winner with two youngsters given their chance in the side impressing – GNK Dinamo Zagreb duo Marko Rog and Marko Pjaca. Against the run of play, however, a clumsy challenge from Šime Vrsaljko gifted Spain a penalty. Sergio Ramos’s dreadful night was capped by Danijel Subašić‘s superb penalty save (was he off his line?…just a little!). Croatia’s guile and endeavour earned it’s reward and it was their midfield superiority that shone through. A wonderful block from captain Darijo Srna was picked up by Pjaca, who found Kalinic early and his ball released the commanding Perišić who hit the ball hard and low past De Gea at the near post. Amazing! Croatia look like the dark horse that could challenge for the trophy based on this performance. Vicente del Bosque will be reeling with keeper De Gea and the back four, a shaky night for them. They now face a mouthwatering tie against Italy in the last 16.