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Spain 3-0 Croatia: Brilliant Yamal steals the show

The Barcelona youngster gave Josko Gvardiol a torrid afternoon in Berlin

Alvaro Morata

Lamine Yamal produced a blistering display that belied his tender years to help Spain get off to a flier at Euro 2024 with a 3-0 dismantling of Croatia.

At just 16 years and 338 days, Barcelona winger Yamal became the youngest player to appear at a European Championship but he proved he belonged at this level by tormenting Croatia left-back Josko Gvardiol.

It was Yamal that created the third goal that effectively ended the game as a contest, putting the ball on a plate for Dani Carvajal to score his first international goal.

By that point, Spain had already established a two-goal lead thanks to strikes from the much-maligned Alvaro Morata and Fabian Ruiz.

Croatia’s miserable afternoon was summed up when Bruno Petkovic missed a second-half penalty with his rebound ruled out for encroachment.

Spain capitalise on Croatian profligacy

Spain were at their clinical best in a first period that saw both teams create chances.

Morata had already seen a shot saved by Croatia goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic by the time he put Spain in front, running on to a Ruiz through ball before finishing coolly.

Mateo Kovacic could have equalised within a minute but his low shot was easily saved by Unai Simon.

Ruiz was a proving an instrumental figure and a moment of individual brilliance saw him double Spain’s lead after 32 minutes. Having received the ball on the edge of the area, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder cleverly turned inside his marker before firing past Livakovic’s left hand.

Again, Croatia carved out an opportunity immediately after conceding but again their finishing was wasteful – Marcelo Brozovic’s initial effort saved by Simon with Lovro Majer firing the rebound horribly wide.

Ante Budimir then came close as Croatia continued to push only to be undone once more on the stroke of half-time. Yamal was the architect with a brilliant cross from the right, whipped in beyond the Croatia defence, and Carvajal was on hand to toe poke into the net.

Yamal almost added a fourth himself six minutes after the break, a swift Spain counter culminating in Pedri picking out his Barcelona team-mate only for Livakovic to make a stunning save to deny the teenager.

Not Croatia’s day

Croatia continued to carve out chances at the other end but after a goalmouth scramble – in which Marc Cucurella excelled with a brave block to deny Josip Stanisic – failed to result in a goal, you sensed it wasn’t to be their day. 

That feeling increased further when they had a consolation ruled out for encroachment with Ivan Perisic guilty of moving too soon after Petkovic’s penalty was saved by Simon. Perisic crossed the loose ball back for Petkovic to tap home but VAR intervened.

The penalty came about after some sloppy play from Simon, who saw his clearance charged down by Majer with Rodri fouling Petkovic in the ensuing melee. Rodri was arguably fortunate to only be shown a yellow card by referee Michael Oliver after denying what appeared an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

Picture of Jon Fisher

Jon Fisher

Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.