Spain Secure Convincing 3-0 Victory over Croatia in Euro 2024 Opener

Berlin – Spain kicked off their Euro 2024 campaign in impressive fashion, delivering a resounding 3-0 triumph over Croatia on Saturday.

The match witnessed a historic moment as Lamine Yamal, just 16 years and 338 days old, became the youngest player ever to participate in the European Championship.

La Roja, three-time European champions, have often faced criticism for their lackluster attacking performances in recent major tournaments.

However, they put on a captivating display at the Olympiastadion, dismantling a lackluster Croatian side.

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring in the 29th minute, netting his seventh goal in the Euros and joining the ranks of Alan Shearer and Antoine Griezmann as the third-highest scorers in the competition’s history.

Fabian Ruiz extended Spain’s lead with a superb individual strike shortly thereafter.

Yamal makes his mark

Yamal made his mark on the game by providing the assist to Dani Carvajal, effectively sealing the victory just before halftime.

Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic missed a late penalty, further compounding their disappointment.

This clash, a rematch of last year’s Nations League final, which Spain won on penalties following a goalless draw, suggests that La Roja is strong contenders for a record-breaking fourth European Championship title.

However, Croatia, World Cup semi-finalists, now face an uphill battle to advance to the knockout phase in their fifth consecutive major tournament.

They have challenging matches against Albania and defending champions Italy ahead in Group B.

Luka Modric, often the driving force for Croatia, was substituted midway through the second half by coach Zlatko Dalic.

Luis de la Fuente’s substitutes

Spain’s coach, Luis de la Fuente, fielded an exciting starting lineup featuring wingers Nico Williams and Yamal.

Yamal, a rising star from Barcelona, broke the previous record held by Polish international Kacper Kozlowski, who participated in Euro 2020 at the age of 17 years and 246 days.

Croatia’s slow start saw Spain dominate possession, showcasing their growing adaptability under De la Fuente.

The opening goal demonstrated their versatility as Fabian Ruiz’s exceptional through ball found Morata, who calmly finished past the stranded Dominik Livakovic.

Ruiz doubled Spain’s advantage just three minutes later, skillfully evading two Croatian defenders inside the box before slotting the ball through Josip Sutalo’s legs into the bottom corner.

Croatia came close to pulling one back immediately, reminiscent of their thrilling encounter with Spain in the Euro 2020 round of 16, which Spain won 5-3 in extra time.

Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon reacted swiftly to deny Marcelo Brozovic’s shot, and Lovro Majer’s subsequent attempt found the side-netting.

Despite creating opportunities, Croatia couldn’t convert them into goals. Josko Gvardiol’s cross-cum-shot narrowly missed both Ante Budimir and the far post.

However, just before halftime, Carvajal, who had recently scored the opening goal in Real Madrid’s Champions League final victory over Borussia Dortmund, put the match to rest.

Yamal cleared a corner and delivered a delightful cross into the box, allowing Carvajal to stretch and volley the ball home.

Croatia try a comeback

Croatia attempted an early comeback in the second half but left spaces for Spain to exploit. Livakovic made an excellent save to deny Yamal his chance at becoming the youngest scorer in Euros history.

Marc Cucurella, a contentious selection by De la Fuente at left-back, made a goal-saving block to prevent Josip Stanisic from giving Croatia a glimmer of hope.

Substitute Petkovic thought he had pulled one back late in the game when he tapped in after his penalty was saved by Simon.

However, VAR ruled out the goal due to Ivan Perisic’s encroachment, leaving Spain with a clean sheet and a near-flawless performance.

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