Spain make light of Croatia in Euro 2024 opener

Spain made an emphatic start to their quest to win a fourth European Championship with an impressive victory over Croatia at Olympiastadion Berlin.

First-half goals by Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz and Dani Carvajal essentially settled the outcome before the break and, although Croatia offered little, this must still go down as a statement win for La Roja.

Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal became the youngest player in men’s Euros history when he started the game at the age of 16 years and 338 days, but it was Spain’s most experienced player who gave them the lead, silencing the Croatia fans who poured into Germany’s capital this weekend.

Ruiz collected the ball on the halfway line and had time to look up and thread a perfect pass for Morata to gallop through and slot past Dominik Livakovic for his 36th goal for his country.

After waiting almost half an hour for the breakthrough, Luis de la Fuente’s side took just over three minutes to extend their lead.

This time, it was Ruiz who found the net, beating two men when he was fed the ball on the edge of the area and firing in a shot that nicked off Josip Sutalo on its way past Livakovic.

Croatia came close to pulling a goal back when Josko Gvardiol’s drilled shot beat Unai Simon but also eluded Ante Budimir, who tried to divert it in as it flew wide of the far post.

But Spain continued to attack and wrapped up the points in first-half stoppage time when Yamal’s cross was turned home by Carvajal, who had stayed up following a corner.

A goal for the teenager to go with that assist was all that was missing, with Livakovic superbly denying him from close range early in the second half.

Croatia’s disappointing day got even worse when Bruno Petkovic saw his late penalty saved by Simon and then the video assistant referee disallowed his follow-up for encroachment into the area.

The 2022 World Cup semi-finalists must try to kickstart their Group B campaign when they face Albania in Hamburg on Thursday, the same day Spain face holders Italy in a mouth-watering clash in Gelsenkirchen.

Source: BBC

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