Spain star leads by example, hyped teenager shines, Croatia midfielder struggles in player ratings.

Spain star leads by example, hyped teenager shines, Croatia midfielder struggles in player ratings.

Spain kicked off their Euro 2024 campaign underway in style after thrashing Croatia 3-0 in Berlin. 

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring just before the half hour mark when he slotted the ball home after a pass by Fabian Ruiz. 

Ruiz turned goalscorer three minutes later with a strike from the edge of the box before Dani Carvajal made it three seconds before the break. 

Croatia thought they had pulled one back when Bruno Petkovic scored a rebound after missing a penalty but his strike was ruled out for enroachment. 

Mail Sport’s Joe Bernstein rates the players from the game in Munich. 

 

SPAIN (4-3-3)

UNAI SIMON – 6.5

Rarely taken out of his comfort zone but his save from Brozovic at 2-0 ensured Spain would have a comfortable evening. Guilty of over-playing to hand Croatia a lifeline from the penalty spot – which he then saved from Petkovic, with the rebound disallowed because of encroachment.

DANI CARVAJAL – 8

Took his first international goal like a striker to add to his recent header in the Champions League final. Having scored the penalty shoot-out winner against Croatia in last year’s Nations League final, they must be sick of the sight of him

ROBIN LE NORMAND – 6

His power in the air nullified the threat of Croatian centre-forward Budimir and he was also a threat when Spain had set pieces.

NACHO – 6

His lack of pace was cited as Spain’s potential Achilles heel but Croatia didn’t see enough of the ball to put him under threat

MARC CUCURELLA – 7

A recent addition the Spanish team and adapting well. The Chelsea left-back’s clearance began the move that led to the all-important first goal. As importantly, he made a key goal-line clearance ot snuff out Stanasic and deny Croatia any chance of a comeback.

PEDRI – 6.5

Scored an own goal against Croatia in the last Euros but this was a much happier occasion. Slide rule pass played in Morata to break the deadlock. Caught in the face by Kovacic’s clearance and substituted after an hour.

RODRI – 7

His usual commanding self and had a role in Morata’s goal with a cute little pass to Pedri. Took the captain’s armband when Morata went off. Booked for conceding a penalty which Croatia failed to convert

FABIAN RUIZ – 7.5

The PSG midfielder was a revelation and showed quick feet and a lethal finish from just inside the penalty area for Spain’s all-important second goal

LAMINE YAMAL – 8

A lot of hype around the Barcelona winger becoming the first 16-year-old to play in the Euro finals and he didn’t disappoint. 

Always a threat and delivered a perfect whipped cross for Carvajal’s third on the stroke of half-time. Almost capped off his performance with a goal but his sidefoot was denied by a brilliant save from Livakovic

ALVARO MORATA – 8.5

Led by example as captain and his 36th goal for Spain also meant only Cristiano Ronaldo and Michel Platini have scored more in Euro finals. 

Timed his run perfectly to latch onto Pedri’s pass and showed great composure to finish. Virtually decided to substitute himself in second half having failed to add to his tally from Yamal’s cross

NICO WILLIAMS – 6

Wasn’t as effective as Yamal on the other flank in exploiting the space given to him by Croatia. Nonetheless his pace was always a threat.

Manager: Luis de la Fuente – 7

His first game in charge at a major tournament couldn’t have gone any better

SUBSTITUTES

Olmo (for Pedri 59) – 6

Oyarzabal (for Morata 68) – 6

Merino (for Wiliams 68) – 6

Zubimendi (for Rodri 86)

Torres (for Yamal 86)

 

CROATIA (4-3-3)

DOMINIK LIVAKOVIC – 7

Couldn’t be faulted for any of the Spanish goals and his save to deny Yamal low down was brilliant.

JOSIP STANISIC – 5.5

Showed quality in some of his crosses but tactically was far too adventurous and left Croatia open. Careless in general play and had a chance to score denied by Cucurella

JOSIP SUTALO – 6

Ajax man coped well with Williams when winger broke towards the penalty area. Unlucky that the ball took a slight deflection off him for Ruiz’s goal

MARIN PONGRACIC – 5.5

Couldn’t catch up to Morata for the opening goal and his partnership at the back with Sutalo looked flimsy

JOSKO GVARDIOL – 6

Croatia took a leaf out of Manchester City’s book and played him at left-back. Went close with a cross-shot but he and Stanasic didn’t communicate so that too often both full-backs were caught upfield

LOVRO MAJER – 5.5

Had a poor game underpinned when he decided to take a free-kick ahead of Modric and then hit the first man. Fired into the sidenetting with a presentable chance to make it 2-1.

MATEO KOVACIC – 7

By far Croatia’s most dynamic player. His shot was saved by Simon soon after Morata had scored. One mazy run led to panic in the Spanish defence which should have produced a goal for his side

LUKA MODRIC – 6

Made his international debut the year Yamal was born but had nothing like the influence of the youngster yesterday. Couldn’t influence the game and his weak challenge on Ruiz allowed the Spaniard room to make it 2-0

MARCELO BROZOVIC – 5

Cristiano Ronaldo’s club-mate with Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia had a poor game. His one bright moment, a powerful strike at Simon was well-saved

ANTE BUDIMIR- 5

Only four players scored more than him in La Liga last season but he never looked like getting a goal. Looked static in the box and was substituted after 56 minutes

Substitutes

Perisic (for Budimir 56) 5.5

Mario Pasalic (for Modric 65) 6

Luka Susic (for Kovacic 76) 6

Petkovic (for Kramaric) 5

Manager – Zlatko Dalic 6

Nightmare first-half but at least he had the sense to withdraw Modric and Kovacic midway through the second half to save them for the other group games. 

They should scored a consolation when Petkovic missed a penalty and when Perisic set him up for the rebound it was disallowed because the Spurs man had encroached

Referee – Michael Oliver 7

Makes decisions with conviction which players and supporters like. Stopped play for a drop-ball after he’d inadvertently blocked a Croatian pass

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