Spain find themselves in the draw of death

All of a sudden everything has become complicated. Spain’s defeat to Croatia left us in second place in the group and sent us into the bad side – the very bad side -- of the draw. First up will be Italy, on Monday in Paris. If we get past the Azzurri, it is likely to be Germany in the quarter-finals. And then, again if forecasts are correct, France in the semi-finals. And just in case, England are also in that half of the draw. We could have avoided all of this with just a draw against Croatia. But we lost. And that after starting well, with 20 minutes in the first half verging on the sublime. But then fatigue and errors set in.

The hope lies in that fantastic period of the match. Spain moved the ball well, created chances… but before that there were mistakes at the back, one of which led to Ivan Rakitic’s shot that came back out off the crossbar and post. And the worst aspect is that around the half hour mark the excellence ceased. Spain continued to control possession but put the brakes on and showed perhaps excessive confidence. And the punishment was the equaliser, right on the stroke of half time. Ivan Perisic, who was a thorn in Spain’s left side throughout, got on the end of a cross that caught Sergio Ramos out (he was poor in general) and David de Gea as well.

Spain still had half the game to manage the draw against a Croatia side lacking Luka Modric and other key players, but who showed more willingness to take the game to the opposition. Vicente del Bosque sent on Bruno for Nolito, to shore up the back with a double pivot. The referee was kind enough to gift us a penalty that Ramos took and Danijel Subasic saved, a couple of metres off his line. The game was right there, and it slipped through our fingers. Even so, we still had faith in securing the draw, because both sides looked tired. But there was one played with something left in the tank: Perisic, him again. He went on a tremendous break, got through to De Gea and scored, with a slight edge off Gerard Piqué. Well, that’s football.