Sport Soccer

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Navas strike ends Croatia hopes as Spain march into quarter-finals

Spain 1 Croatia 0

Chris Bascombe

A JESUS NAVAS goal after 87 minutes sent Croatia home and ensured the big guns are loading at Euro 2012.

Spain joined Germany and Portugal in a quarter-final line-up which now has a look of ominous familiarity, but it was far from the customary tika-taka beauty in Gdansk.

The holders ambled into the quarter-final with a dour victory over Croatia.

This was an evening where Vicente del Bosque's side played the clock as much as their conservative opponents.

So often Del Bosque's side have lifted the soul, but here they played with suffocating safety against an often perplexingly negative Croatia.

They triumphed thanks to that late strike from Jesus Navas.

Croatia's gamble was to adopt a non-risk strategy, stifling the game in the hope the world champions would succumb to nerves or misfortune in the later stages of a game in which they monopolised possession.

Pre-match fears of the high-scoring draw to take both nations through to the last eight were sadly as far-fetched as they seemed.

The Italians complaining about match-fixing is a bit like Vito Corleone expressing concern that the New Jersey crew might start using guns.

Their stitch-up theory went as follows: Croatia and Spain would draw 2-2, rendering events in Poznan meaningless.

Such was the tedium on display in the opening stages in Gdansk, the only credible suspicion was the Croatians were intent on a self-destructive goalless draw.

They showed all the sense of adventure as a hermit on a siesta.

Spain were lulled into a sense meandering until substitute Navas had the last word from Andres Iniesta's typically selfless pass.

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