Spain were up against the runners-up of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Croatia in their Round of 16 clash. Croatia took an early lead in the match when goalkeeper Unai Simon failed to control a simple backpass from Pedri from miles out. The ball ended up travelling to the back of the net and gave Croatia an unexpected, early lead even though they had hardly threatened the Spanish goal in the first half.
However, Spain recovered soon in the second-half and so did goalkeeper Unai Simon who made several crucial saves to keep Luka Modric and co at bay. Following the match, head coach of La Roja, Luis Enrique hailed the attitude shown by Unai Simon and how he bounced back in the match. Enrique said that it set an example for his teammates as well.
Luis Enrique told reporters: “[Unai Simon] has taught everyone a lesson. After a mistake, your mistake does not matter, but your attitude after the mistake.
“It is a lesson for all his team-mates and for all the children who want to play football.”
Spain had saved themselves from the blushes of going into the half-time tunnel a goal down. Just before the 45-minute mark, a save from Dominik Livakovic fell to the path of Pablo Sarabia and he slotted it into the back of the net.
Cesar Azpilicueta gave his side a commanding lead when he headed in his first international goal from a Ferran Torres cross. Ferran Torres then seemed to have put the tie to bed when he extended Spain’s lead to two in the 77th minute of the match.
However, the story was far from over. Croatia left things late and managed to pull the momentum in their favour when Milsav Orsic scored in the 85th minute. And when everything seemed over, Mario Pasalic struck in the 92nd minute of the match to restore parity for the 2018 World Cup runners-up and forced the tie into extra time.
Spain prevailed as the side with better temperament in extra time and defying all odds, under-fire striker Alvaro Morata put La Roja ahead. Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal rescued Spain’s two-goal lead once again with a goal in the 103rd minute. This time, Spain did not throw away their lead.
“It was an epic match. It had positive and some negative things,” Luis Enrique said.
“Football is a sport of mistakes. The two sets of fans have applauded the two teams for the effort and show that the two teams have given.
“I have lived through some very intense matches, but this is one of the most.”