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Spain - Croatia match report: UEFA Nations League

Spain dismanelted the World Cup finalist with goals from Saúl, Asensio, an own-goal from Kalinic (from an Asensio blast off the bar), Rodrigo, Ramos and Isco.

ELCHE, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 11:  Isco of Spain (22) celebrates with team mates as he scores his team's sixth goal with Marco Asensio and Thiago Alcantara during the UEFA Nations League A Group four match between Spain and Croatia at Estadio Manuel Marti
Denis DoyleGetty Images

Spain 6-0 Croatia: match report

Luis Enrique's two games in charge of Spain have inspired two impressive performances proving they have changed their style of play enough to cause problems for opposing teams' goals. The big takeaway, however, is six points although the mauling they gave Croatia on Tuesday night was a statement worth taking notice of too. If the World Cup caused a hangover, the impressive manner in which they beat Croatia on Tuesday night was a big glass of water, two ibuprofen and an afternoon nap. Spain are back.

The return of Elche's prodigal son did not disappoint either as a sup-plot to the game. Saúl couldn't wait to take to the field with a disappointing World Cup in the rear-view mirror but with an awesome display against England a little fresher in the memory. He scored his first goal for Spain in that game on Saturday at Wembley and he got his second against Croatia on Tuesday night.

A lovely diagonal ball from Sergio Ramos into Dani Carvajal's path started the move. The right-back lofted one into the box and Saúl's run from deep was unstoppable. His header down into the ground and into the back of the net wasn't to be stopped either.

It was a man who hails from an island just off the east coast of Spain, about 400 kilometres from where the game was played, who stole the spotlight as the half wore one though. Marco Asensio slammed home a shot from an errant pass across Croatia's midfield by the visiting side and Spain, who had looked shaky at the back before the opener, were now cruising.

Just two minutes later, Asensio reloaded. His left-footed shot rifled off the crossbar and hit Kalinic's back before rolling over the line. It went down as an own-goal but it was a thing created entirely by the attacker.

The second half continued as the first half transpired. Asensio got himself an assist when he sent Rodrigo through only for the striker to send hit shot beyond Kalinic.

Sergio Ramos continued his fine scoring start to the season with his fourth in six games when he headed home from a corner. It was 5-0 and Croatia were ready to call it a night even though there was still 33 minutes left.

Isco got in on the act when he swivelled in the box from an Asensio pass and he passed the ball into the top corner with precision. Asensio had a hat-trick of goals and two himself in an incredible display of attacking authority.

As far as statements go, this was comprehensive and Spain were relentless too. It proves that they have enough to work with to compete seriously for honour under Luis Enrique. After a World Cup wedged with controversy, most of that ill feeling is washed away.

As for Croatia, the good vibes they built up on their way to a World Cup final are mostly gone too. Was the competition poor? Was it a fluke, a flash in the pan?

That's hard to tell but the result in the Estadio Martinez Valero on Tuesday night was not ambiguous and neither is Spain's start under Luis Enrique.

Spain - Croatia live online: updates

Spain - Croatia live online: preview

The World Cup finalists travel to Elche in Alicante where they play Spain at the Estadio Martinez Valero with kick-off in the Nations League game at 20:45 CEST. Spain are coming of an impressive comeback win over England in Wembley while Croatia played out a 1-1 draw with Portugal with Ivan Perisic giving them an early lead before being pegged back.

Spain's Saúl has been stealing the headlines as he returns to his hometown after his first goal for his country against England. He didn't play a single minute at the World Cup but with the arrival of Luis Enrique, it looks like he will be a focal point in Spain's midfield going forward. There was even a surge of people looking for last minute tickets after his performance on Saturday night. Another player who improved after a World Cup to forget was David de Gea and Luis Enrique praised his keeper after a string of excellent saves that kept England and Marcus Rashford in particular at bay. Luis Enrique also admitted his error by leaving Iago Aspas out of his initial squad. The Celta striker was very good against England and could retain his spot for the arrival of Croatia. Iñigo Martínez did not train and is out with discomfort. Other than that, there are no fresh injury concerns.

Croatia are without Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida and that could mean trouble for them at the back.Vida started against the Portuguese but had to be withdrawn and in Lovren's stead was Matej Mitrovic. Andre Kramaric is out also and so is Ante Rebic. Mario Mandzukic has retired after the World Cup and his brash presence in attack could be missed. Luka Modric is available however, and should start. He is currently aiming for the Ballon d'Or and every game with as many eyeballs watching is another chance to further his cause. Ivan Rakitic, his Croatian teammate, thinks Messi is the best ever but that Modric deserves the world's best player award this season. "It's a great challenge to play against Luka in the Spanish league and it's even better to play with him for our country," Rakitic said. "Hopefully we will get to enjoy him a little bit more."


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