Croatia 2 - 1 Spain
If Spain are to win an unprecedented 3rd Euros in-a-row, they'll have to do it the hard way. The champions looked like they might take Croatia to the cleaners after Morata touched home Fabregas' shot on 7', but the Croats changed their game and stopped their opposite numbers from holding on to easy possession by choking their goal-kicks and fighting fiercely for the ball. A coherent and co-ordinated unit fell back and moved forward as one, and fought their way back into the match.
Croatia looked dangerous on the break, but started gaining territory themselves as the match wore on, sustaining periods of pressure, growing in belief and pushing the Spanish Galleon back. That paid off just before half-time as some excellent work from man-of-the-match Perisic was finished off with a Kalinic invention and Spain went into the dressing room feeling like they'd been suckered.
The second half mirrored the first as Spain dominated the ball early, but couldn't pin Croatia back or make it count on the scoreboard, Del Bosque even bringing defensive midfielder Bruno Soriano on for Nolito to stop the insistent Croatian attacks. The game developed into a ding-dong end-to-end you-swing-then-we-swing counterpunching contest and Spain looked like they'd carved it out when the ref blew for a penlaty after David Silva was bundled over in the box. Sergio Ramos stepped up and had his penalty saved by Subasic who was easily two metres off his line, and the pain of that miss was exacerbated when the excellent Perisic raced away and beat De Gea at the near post on 87'.
Croatia were well worth their win, Corluka, Rakitic, Subasic, Srna and Perisic all deserving special mention, and they even did it without Luka Modric. Spain now face a road to the final that is fraught with quality obstacles as Croatia march with belief gathering at pace.
How it happened
Min 90 + 4: Silva with one last chance but no!! A famous night for Croatia who top Group D with the Czech Rep in last, Turkey 3rd and Spain in second, the Croats are dancing on the field and in the stands, they started slowly but grew in confidence matching Spain blow for blow and finally got the goal that counted. A thrilling encounter that saw Sergio Ramos miss a penalty and the holders miss their chance to qualify in first place.
Min 90 + 3: Hero Perisic is off for Kramaric, Spain can't get any rhythm going..
Min 90 + 1: Croatia bringing on 2 subs looking to police this one, Cop is on for Pjaca but Kramaric will have to wait for the ref to allow him on to the field..
Min 90: Aduriz took too long to get a shot off at one end, and Croatia streaked down the other, Perisic struck a sweet left-footed half-volley that took the softest flick off Pique's boot and beat De Gea at the near post. If it stays like this Croatia top the group, 3 mins to go..
Min 87: GOOOOOOooooooooooooooooolll!!!! PEEEERISIC puts Croatia ahead!
Min 85: Corluka has been excellent for Croatia tonight, reading the game well and winning possession from the long balls, ihs mirror image has been Gerard Piqué.
Min 84: With 6 mins to go Cesc Fabregas is off for Thiago Alcantara.
Min 80: Brave move as Rog comes off for Real Madrid's Mateo Kovacic, he's an attacking midfielder, Croatia going for it?
Min 78: Juanfran flights a lovely cross between the Croat central defenders, but Aduriz can't get his head on it, Silva's resulting corner is again won by Sergio Ramos but again he heads it over. In David Silva Spain have someone who can take a decent corner, they've had a number of chances from there tonight.
Min 76: Croatia applying more pressure, that man Perisic again the orchestrator, he thinks he's won a corner, butthe officials give a free out for a high foot on Ramos. Either side could win this one..
Min 74: Aduriz gives Croatia a chance with a free around 30 yards out, Rakitic lines it up and blows it over the bar. Poor effort.
Min 72: He's missed!! Spain captain Sergio Ramos can't convert, Subasic is a good 2 metres off his line and bats it away, the score stays at 1-1.. Incredible!
Min 71: PENALTY FOR SPAIN!! Srna clips Silva, the ref blows.. Ramos to take...
Min 69: The shape of this match has changed since the Bruno Soriano change, Spain now lie deeper..
Min 67: Ramos leaps from a corner, he's all alone again, but directs it wide again. Still Croatia 1 - 1 Spain.
Min 65: Meanwhile Turkey have doubled their lead against the Czechs, a brilliant finish into the top corner puts them 2 up.
Min 64: Pjaca goes down in the area, the whole of Croatia yells PENALTY! .. hard to tell from this angle, but the ref waves play on..
Min 62: Big cheer from the Croatian fans as Spain move the ball from left to right to left again and Sergio Ramos bashes it all the way back to De Gea. Croatia are closing all the gaps at the moment.
Min 60: Bruno Soriano comes on for Nolito, which says a lot, Del Bosque looking to shore up the midfield and turn the tide, he and Busquets will shield the defence and allow Iniesta, Silva and Fabregas to step forward.
Min 57: More danger from Croatia, De Gea claws away a cross then stops a volley with his foot, real pressure from Croatia who look like they believe they can win this one.
Min 55: Morata warned again by the ref, and by Perisic - who's been really good for the Croats - Pique and Ramos crunch a Croatian and the resulting free-kick arcs in dangerously from the foot of Rakitic.. Ramos' head saves the day, then De Gea punches away the corner..
Min 52: Ouch, Turkey's Gokhan Gonul is spurting blood after a nasty clash of heads, the ref is making him change his shirt before he comes back on..
Min 50: The 2nd half starting a little like the 1st, Spain in control, Croatia falling back, good work from Corluka to win it back from a speeding Jordi Alba..
Min 48: Spain work it around the Croat box, Iniesta and Silva prominent and rolls across to Juanfran running onto it at the corner of the box but it flies wildly over.
Min 46: Croatia kick off the second half, portents of doom didn't come to pass with Croatian protest ambitions, luckily it's only the players invading the pitch. Spain in possession..
Spain started like a stampede and ended the half in a much more pedestrian fashion, walking off on level terms: Croatia 1-1 Spain. Croatia did well to change things up after it looked like Iniesta et al would run away with the game. They've forced Spain into playing it long and disrupted their passing rhythm, evening the game up on the stroke of half-time through the lone front man Kalinic. Things are set up nicely for the 2nd period.
Min 45: Superb work from Perisic on the wing who turned and turned back again making space for the cross, it cleared the head of Rakitic only for the striker Kalinic to nip in and put it away with an improvised backheel finish.. Very well-worked goal.
Min 45: Gooooooooooooolll!!! Croatia level things up on the cusp of half-time.
Min 43: Uyyy... Morata was in with a better touch..
Min 41: Swivel-hipped David Silva wriggles to the byline, wins a corner and Sergio Ramos has a free header! He can't hone in on goal however, flashing it wide of the far post. Should have done better...
Min 38: Croatia have fought their way back into this one after it looked like the holders might have their way with them, they've stopped Spain securing possession from goal-kicks and forced them to play long. Spain less in control now and Srna swings in a dangerous ball for Croat captain Perisic, he bodyboards on Juanfran's back but can't keep the header down.
Min 35: Morata gets a warning for having a go at Jedvaj in midfield, grabbing a fistful of his shirt and swinging a leg at him, the ref calms things down, Croatia don't wear Puma, Jedvaj would be naked from the waist up if they did..
Min 33: Excellent defensive header from Juanfran with Perisic leaping behind him, a small period of pressure from Croatia ends in the ball being volleyed overthe bar.
Min 31: No pitch invasion forthcoming quite yet, good, because this is a decent game.
Min 28: Spain threaten again, first Nolito's strike is deflected wide, then Subasic makes a crucial intervention with three Spanish shirts queueing up to head that in. Offside flag goes up.
Min 27: Jordi Alba shoulders Barça teammate Rakitic in the back, he returns the gesture with a bit of a kick.. Free goes to Alba.
Min 26: Silva wins free from exactly where he scored that golazo against South Korea in a friendly.. Into the wall this time..
Min 25: Rumours are that the Croatian fans are going to stage a pitch invasion on 30 mins...
Min 23: "Just bloody hit it!" says Spanish commentator Manu, Silva obliges but Subasic gets his body behind it.
Min 20: After a period of Spanish possession moving about the opposition box, Busquets gives it straight to a Croatian. That's a collector's item.
Min 19: Ramos booms it forward, Spain can do that too..
Min 15: A fluttering buzz of expectation spreads through the crowd every time Iniesta touches the ball.. Spain look dangerous in possession, but Croatia force a corner through Ramos and Rakitic at the other end..
Min 13: So much happening! Kalinic draws a good save from De Gea who then invites Rakitic to equalize, he hits the bar/post and it bounces tamely into De Gea's hands. Lucky.
Min 9: Turkey go one up against the Czech Republic, Yilmaz with a great finish.
Min 8: Silva nearly makes it two with a controlled side-foot volley across the goal, Subasic a spectator. If Spain keep going like this Croatia are in serious trouble..
Min 7: David Silva's glorious reverse pass completely twists Croatian sinews, Cesc dinks it over the keeper and Morata taps home. What a start for Spain..
Min 7: GOooooooooooooolllll...... Spain score... already!
Min 4: Spain look to protect the ball when they get it and keep possession as is their wont, Nolito spreads it wide to Juanfran, but his cross is straight to Subasic.
Min 2: Spain have started with the team that destroyed Turkey, Croatia are missing Luka Modric with a groin strain. A big loss, and a shame, it would have been a fascinating La Liga midfield showdown... Should still be a good watch..
Min 1: Spain get us underway in their famous 'Paella Vomit' white red and yellow effort playing from left to right, Croatia in all-blue.
Welcome to the final Group D match between Spain and Croatia, anthems sung, coin toss done, we're about to kick off here!
Croatia v Spain: preview
Vicente del Bosque’s Spain side will aim to top Group D and avoid a knock-out stage path strewn with potential pitfalls as they seek to successfully defend their European Championship title.
Del Bosque’s team eased into the last 16 with victories over Czech Republic and Turkey, the latter 3-0 win Spain’s finest performance in some time, but will be eager to ensure they end the group stage atop the pile.
With Italy guaranteed to finish top of Group E, whoever finishes second in Group D will likely have to get past the Euro 2012 finalists and then hosts France to reach the semi-finals.
Germany could then stand in the way of a place in the July 10 final, but midfielder David Silva is confident Spain will steer clear of that perilous path.
"At this stage it is normal that they make you favourites. We have won the last two European Championships and also for the games in the past few days," he said.
"We have had a very good start. We need to win or draw to stay top of the group. We need to maintain our level and if it remains so high, we can win the tournament."
Croatia could be without midfielder Luka Modric after the Real Madrid star hobbled off in Friday's 2-2 draw with Czech Republic. Key striker Mario Mandzukic is also an injury doubt.
Off the pitch, both nations will be hoping that the match is not played out against a backdrop of violence that has marred the tournament so far: hard-core supporters of Croatian club Hajduk Split, suspected of throwing flares that temporarily halted play against the Czechs, have threatened to disrupt the game.