Mario Mandzukic has retired at the age of 35, and the former Juventus and Bayern Munich striker signed off with a reminder of his World Cup winner against England.

A mainstay of the Croatia national team, Mandzukic hit an extra-time winner in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against Gareth Southgate's team, before scoring at both ends in the 4-2 final defeat to France.

He became the first player to score an own goal in a World Cup final to give France an early lead, before capitalising on a Hugo Lloris mistake to give Croatia late hope.

His retirement announcement, issued on Instagram, was in the form of a letter to his younger self, with Mandzukic saying he should "just be ready around [the] 109th minute" should he ever face England at the World Cup.

That was the minute in which he fired past Jordan Pickford to send Croatia into their first World Cup final as 2-1 winners over England.

Mandzukic's career took off in his early twenties at Dinamo Zagreb, and he was signed by German outfit Wolfsburg in 2010 before moving on two years later to Bayern Munich, for whom he scored in the 2013 Champions League final win over Borussia Dortmund, also winning the Bundesliga twice.

Only Robert Lewandowski (44 goals) and Stefan Kiessling (40) scored more than the 33 Bundesliga goals that Mandzukic managed across his two campaigns at Bayern.

 

A year followed at Atletico Madrid before Mandzukic enjoyed four seasons at Juventus, winning the Serie A title each time and scoring a memorable goal in the Bianconeri's Champions League final loss to Real Madrid in 2017.

He had a spell at Qatari side Al-Duhail and played the last football of his career for Milan in the second half of last season.

Mandzukic, who scored 33 goals in 89 matches for Croatia, addressed his farewell letter to 'little Mario' and wrote: "While you put on these boots for the first time, you can't even imagine what you will get to experience in football.

"You'll score goals at the biggest stages and you'll win the biggest trophies with the biggest clubs. Proudly representing your nation, you will help write the history of Croatian sports.

"You'll succeed because you'll have good people around you – teammates, coaches, fans, and family, agent and friends who will always be there for you. You'll be forever grateful to all of them!

"Above all, you'll succeed because you'll always give your best. At the end, that's what you'll be most proud of. You'll sacrifice a lot, but you'll know it was worth it because of all the amazing moments.

"You'll recognise the moment to retire, to put these boots in a cabinet and you'll have no regrets. Football will always be a part of your life, but you'll look forward to a new chapter.

"P.S. If you happen to play vs England in the World Cup, just be ready around [the] 109th minute."

Mandzukic's winner in that clash with England came from his third goal attempt in the game, all of which he got on target. That was a lesson to an England side who collectively only put two of their 11 efforts on target.

"What a career Big Mario," said former Juve team-mate Blaise Matuidi. "Congratulations you are a legend."

Luis Enrique believes any national team in the world would gladly have Alvaro Morata in their line-up after helping Spain reach the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

Spain forward Morata put patchy form in front of goal behind him to fire a brilliant extra-time strike and re-establish La Roja's lead in Copenhagen on Monday, en route to a thrilling 5-3 last-16 win over Croatia.

Before the match, Luis Enrique branded abuse and threats directed towards Morata and his family as "criminal" and urged the police to take action.

After a breathless encounter at Parken Stadium, which Spain led 3-1 with five minutes of normal time remaining, the Spain head coach once again offered unwavering backing to his centre-forward.

"I don't think there's a national team coach anywhere in the world who wouldn't value Morata and what he does for the team" he said, after the 28-year-old completed 84 per cent of his passes in the opposition half and created two chances for team-mates.

"He's dominant aerially, he's strong and he gets us goals. We really need to appreciate having a striker like him."

 

Spain fell behind in the first half when goalkeeper Unai Simon let a 40-yard backpass from Pedri skip past him and into the net.

The Athletic Bilbao keeper made amends early in extra time with a stunning close-range save from Andrej Kramaric when the score was 3-3.

"Unai gave a lesson to kids everywhere," Luis Enrique said.

"Football is made up of errors and his reaction, making great saves, was an example of why we have such confidence in him."

The former Barcelona boss added: "I've lived through really intense matches as a player and manager but this one genuinely had a bit of everything."

After becoming the first team to score five goals in back-to-back games in European Championship history, Spain will face Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Vladimir Petkovic's side emulated Croatia's feat by launching a late comeback to draw 3-3 with France before beating the world champions on penalties as Yann Sommer saved decisively from Kylian Mbappe in the shoot-out.

June 28, 2021 – it has been a 'remember where you were' kind of day at the European Championship, with the round of 16 treating us to two absolute classics.

After seeing Spain emerge as winners over Croatia in an eight-goal match, many of us were probably settling down to watch France expecting a rather duller affair given their approach in the group stage.

What we got was the complete opposite, as Switzerland pulled off what will probably be the biggest shock of the tournament regardless of what happens from this point on.

With 14 goals between the two matches, only June 23, 2021 has seen more scored on a single day in Euros history but that came from a pool of four matches.

Furthermore, this was the first day at a European Championship or World Cup with two games featuring at least six goals each since June 15, 1982.

At the end of a truly remarkable day, Stats Perform looks at the key Opta stats from two engrossing matches.

Croatia 3-5 Spain (after extra time): Calamitous own goal sets tone for chaotic classic

Given how wasteful Spain have been at times in Euro 2020, it's a remarkable achievement that they have managed to become the first side in European Championship history to score five goals in successive games.

But rarely did they have things their own way, shooting themselves in the foot with Pedri scoring the longest-range own goal in Euros history at 49 yards as Unai Simon saw his pass bobble over his foot.

Incredibly, it was the ninth own goal at Euro 2020, as many as in the previous 15 editions of the tournament combined.

Pablo Sarabia equalised before the break, with Cesar Azpilicueta – now Spain's oldest-ever Euros scorer (31 years, 304 days) – and Ferran Torres putting them 3-1 up in the second period. They were cruising.

Or, they were until the last five minutes of normal time when Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic both scored, incredibly forcing extra-time.

But back came La Roja. Alvaro Morata silenced his army of critics with his fifth career goal at the Euros, levelling the Spanish record held by Fernando Torres, and then Mikel Oyarzabal made sure of the victory.

France 3-3 Switzerland (aet, 4-5 on penalties): Mbappe endures nightmare as Swiss refuse to roll over

While it was always going to be tricky for France to go all the way given their tough group and the fact they were on the trickier (in theory) side of the draw, anyone who says they predicted Les Bleus being eliminated by Switzerland is a liar.

Yet here we are, and the Swiss are into the quarter-finals. And, to be fair, they might have booked their place earlier had Hugo Lloris not become the first French goalkeeper to save a penalty at a major tournament (excluding shoot-outs) since 2004 when Switzerland were already 1-0 up.

Within four minutes and three seconds of that save, France were 2-1 up – Karim Benzema making himself only the second Frenchman to score two or more goals in successive games at the Euros since Michel Platini's back-to-back hat-tricks at Euro 84.

Paul Pogba then got what should have been the clincher 15 minutes from time with a scorching finish, his fourth in five goals for France to come from outside the box.

But Haris Seferovic got his second of the game to take his tally to three goals in two games after only previously managing one in 13 major tournament appearances, and Mario Gavranovic's dramatic effort secured extra time.

It was in the extra 30 minutes when Mbappe was particularly wasteful, missing one especially good chance, and what followed in the shoot-out ultimately made sense in that context.

After the first nine kicks were converted, Mbappe – who has had more shots (14) without scoring than any other player at Euro 2020 – saw his effort saved by Yann Sommer.

It means Switzerland will contest a quarter-final for the first time since 1954, while France failed to get to that stage for the first time since 2010.

 

Sergio Busquets believes Spain are growing stronger by the game at Euro 2020 after La Roja defeated Croatia 5-3 in a European Championship classic to reach the quarter-finals.

Luis Enrique's side won their first knockout game at a major tournament since winning Euro 2012 nine years ago, triumphing in a thrilling contest at Parken Stadium on Monday.

Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres were all on target to give Spain a commanding 3-1 lead after Pedri's bizarre own goal from 49 yards had put Croatia ahead.

But substitute Mislav Orsic scored one and set up another for Mario Pasalic in the space of seven minutes late on in Copenhagen to set up extra time.

It is the just the second time Spain have conceded three goals in their Euros history, but they won the match through extra-time strikes from Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal, both goals set up by substitute Dani Olmo.

Spain captain Busquets was particularly pleased with the way his side responded to the own goal, with Unai Simon miscontrolling Pedri's backpass and letting the ball roll into his own net.

"Unai knows he's got our total confidence. The goal was bad luck but his mentality is very laidback while remaining ambitious, and he showed that today," Busquets said after collecting the man of the match award at full-time.

"He was ultra-secure after the goal and made some top saves. The team has managed to recover and it is a great victory. This win leaves us good feelings. The team knows what it plays and what it wants. 

"We are a difficult opponent to beat and are growing stronger in this tournament as it goes."

Spain are the first side in European Championship history to score five or more goals in successive games, with five different players registering for La Roja in a single game at a major tournament for the first time.

However, Busquets admits there is room for improvement after giving away a comical opening goal and allowing Croatia a way back into the game when in control with five minutes left.

"We had chances to finish the game off quite early on but we showed character throughout," he said. "When Croatia changed their system, they flooded the pitch high up and we didn't adjust quickly enough.

"Scoring five times and going through still suggests that we have to improve, but to get to the quarter-finals is an indication that we're a good team. 

"We were very good today, very intense, well prepared and we beat a very, very difficult rival here."

Monday's match was the second-highest scoring contest in European Championship history, behind only France against Yugoslavia in the 1960 semi-finals (a 5-4 victory for Yugoslavia).

Croatia ultimately came out the wrong side of the eight-goal classic, and captain Luka Modric accepts his side lacked the quality needed to complete a famous comeback.

"We took the lead from a lucky goal. Afterwards, they were better – at least for the first 60 minutes," he told HRT. "We stood too deep in our half and let them play. 

"When we attacked more, we played better and created more chances and that is where the equaliser came from; when we showed quality and character. 

"At the start of extra time we had them on the ropes but we failed to score from two good chances. Then the game turned around and we didn't have the strength to come back."

When Dani Olmo's right-footed cross curled through the fervent Copenhagen evening, it only had one man's name on it.

The name of a striker who has plied his trade at the top of European football for the duration of his career, the name of a player chosen to lead the line for one of the continent's great footballing heavyweights.

But also the name of a 28-year-old man with a wife and a young family, whose struggles at Euro 2020 have provoked unforgivable threats from poisonous throats and wicked fingers.

"I would like people to put themselves in my shoes and think what it's like to get threats towards my family, people saying: 'I hope your children die'," Alvaro Morata told Cadena Cope this week, after scoring once but missing a catalogue of chances during the group stage.

"I've had to leave my phone outside my room. My wife and children have come to the stadium in Seville with Morata on the back of their shirts and people have been shouting at them. 

"It's complicated. I understand people booing me for missing chances but there's a limit."

Olmo, who himself slammed Morata's abusers for "going beyond" had put his team-mate in the spotlight once more. It was a perfect cross at odds with the frenzied, haywire nonsense that had gone before.

But then, that's Spain at major tournaments nowadays. It's complicated.

                       ********************

Since winning Euros 2008 and 2012 either side of the 2010 World Cup, Spain were without a win in major tournament knockout games ahead of Monday's last-16 encounter with Croatia at Parken Stadium.

At the 2014 World Cup, they were dumped out at the group stage, at Euro 2016 they were comprehensively outplayed by Antonio Conte's Italy and the hosts bored them to a penalty shoot-out loss at Russia 2018.

But this time it would be different, right?

In Luis Enrique, they have a high-class coach with a point to prove. They put collective goalscoring demons behind them by shellacking Slovakia 5-0 and began against Croatia with authoritative dominance.

Pedri, the youngest player to start a European Championship knockout game at 18 years and 215 days, had everyone dancing to his tune. A stunning throughball released Koke, who should have scored. Morata, naturally, also should have scored but misjudged a header.

It seemed a matter of time before Spain scored with Pedri heavily involved. The Barcelona youngster pinging a 40-yard backpass beyond a haphazard attempt at control from goalkeeper Unai Simon – giving Croatia the lead before they had enjoyed either a shot or a touch inside the opposition penalty area – was not in anyone's script, however.

                       ********************

Scripts, match reports and strands of hair have long since been ripped apart by the time Morata smoothly controlled Olmo's centre with his right foot.

It was time to make his impression upon a contest of clinical finishing and frazzled brains.

"The situation is so serious that it must be put in the hands of the police because it is a serious crime," Luis Enrique rightly said when addressing the media this week.

"Insulting Morata's relatives is a crime and I hope it is corrected outright."

In the sporting sense, he had seen his team fall victim to an improbable heist and needed the centre-forward he trusts above all others.

Around 50 minutes earlier, Morata could look on with satisfaction and leave the finishing to right-back Cesar Azpilicueta, who powered home Ferran Torres' 57th-minute cross.

The effervescent Pablo Sarabia equalised before half-time and Torres getting in on the act showed Spain have enough firepower to absorb Morata's more erratic moments and enjoy his slick, intelligent link play. He created two openings for team-mates and completed 84 per cent of his passes deep in Croatian territory.

Luka Modric, the old master so outplayed by Pedri, was goaded into penning the sting in the tail as he shuffled towards the Spain six-yard box to set up substitute Mislav Orsic.

Right then, it felt as if Luis Enrique might have erred in taking off Sarabia, Torres and Koke to rest their legs for the quarters, not to mention disrupting Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia's central defensive pairing by throwing on Pau Torres for the latter.

When Mario Pasalic converted Orsic's brilliant delivery from deep to spark unbridled bedlam, we had our answer.

                       ********************

Morata's perfect first touch granted him time in a game where no one seemed to have any, despite an additional 30 minute being bolted on.

Orsic blazed over at the start of extra time with Spain rocking, while Andrej Kramaric drew a magnificent save from Simon when the score was 3-3.

In terms of redemptive moments, that was only the supporting act.

Where he has snatched at changes so often of late, Morata found time to breath and let the ball drop enough for him to drive his left boot brutally through.

It was in from the moment he connected. Olmo's fellow sub Mikel Oyarzabal concluded a 5-3 win, making Spain the first team to score five goals in consecutive European Championship matches.

That's an awful lot to celebrate for some who have mercilessly tormented their hero of the hour and his loved ones. They don't deserve Alvaro Morata, and the endurance and perseverance that mean one of this tournament's greatest ever games belongs to him.

Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal scored extra-time goals to earn Spain a 5-3 win over Croatia in Monday's breathless Euro 2020 last-16 tie after La Roja had squandered a two-goal lead late on in normal time.

Spain recovered from a bizarre Pedri own goal at Parken Stadium thanks to strikes from Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres to lead 3-1 with 85 minutes played.

However, Mislav Orsic bundled in to give Croatia a lifeline in Copenhagen and then set up fellow substitute Mario Pasalic in the 92nd minute to take an enthralling game to extra time.

But Spain dug deep in the additional period to book a place in the quarter-finals, where either France or Switzerland await, with Morata making amends for an earlier miss with a well-taken goal and Oyarzabal adding a second from the bench to settle a game that will go down as a European Championship classic.

Profligacy cost Spain in their opening two group games and that looked like being the case again in Copenhagen after Koke was denied by Dominik Livakovic from a one-on-one and Morata headed into Domagoj Vida from close range.

A comical moment followed as Pedri's pass from 49.4 yards was miscontrolled by Unai Simon and rolled into the back of the net, making it the longest-range own goal in European Championship history.

Luis Enrique's men responded well by equalising before half-time through Sarabia's powerful drive after Jose Gaya's shot was parried into his path by Livakovic.

Azpilicueta put Spain in front with his first international goal by getting in front of Josko Gvardiol and guiding Torres' cross past Livakovic from inside the six-yard box.

Spain gave themselves breathing space nine minutes later as Torres cut inside and clinically finished off a swift move.

With five minutes to go, though, Orsic followed up after a scramble in the box to help the ball over the line – the goal allowed to stand following a VAR check for handball inside the box.

Then came the dramatic leveller in added time, with Pasalic left in space inside the box to head in Orsic's cross and pave the way for an additional 30 minutes.

Croatia started the period of extra time on top and would have taken the lead if not for an incredible Simon stop to keep out Andrej Kramaric, but Morata took down Dani Olmo's cross at the back post and thumped past Livakovic four minutes later.

Super sub Olmo then provided the cross for fellow replacement Oyarzabal, who also hit the post in the final seconds, to tuck home the eighth goal of a sensational European Championship tie and confirm Spain's place in the last eight.

Pedri's own goal for Spain in Monday's last-16 tie with Croatia was the ninth scored at Euro 2020 – as many as seen in each of the previous editions combined.

The Spain midfielder played a pass back to goalkeeper Unai Simon from close to the halfway line and his team-mate failed to control the ball, allowing it to roll beyond him and into the net.

The own goal was initially credited to Simon before going to Pedri – in the same game the Barcelona talent became the youngest player to start a knockout game in the European Championships.

At 18 years and 215 days, he beats the record set by England's Wayne Rooney (18 years and 244 days) against Portugal in 2004.

Pedri joins Merih Demiral, Wojciech Szczesny, Mats Hummels, Ruben Dias, Raphael Guerreiro, Lukas Hradecky, Martin Dubravka and Juraj Kucka in putting into his own net in this year's tournament.

Only nine own goals were scored in the previous 15 Euros: Anton Ondrus, Lyuboslav Penev, Dejan Govedarica, Igor Tudor, Jorge Andrade, Glen Johnson, Ciaran Clark, Birkir Mar Saevarsson and Gareth McAuley were the unfortunate players.

Pedri's bizarre own goal was officially registered from a distance of 49.4 yards, making it the longest-ever netted in the Euros and the first ever scored from outside the box.

Watching Alvaro Morata toil at Euro 2020 has been almost tragic, with every miss seemingly guaranteed to invite some form of pile-on, whether on social media or from fans inside the stadium.

Rarely do footballers inspire feelings of sympathy, with fans perhaps generally forgetting that these entertainers performing for our satisfaction are humans too, carrying out a job like any other member of society.

Maybe it is the money they're paid that prevents certain individuals from feeling empathy for footballers, but surely even the most vociferous cheerleaders of "footballers' wages for soldiers" and other comparable arguments must have felt some kind of compassion for Morata at one time or another during this tournament.

Even before a ball was kicked, Morata was already a hot topic of conversation after he was widely jeered by the home crowd during Spain's 0-0 warm-up friendly draw with Portugal at the Wanda Metropolitano, the home of the club – Atletico Madrid – that owns him. Just 11 days later it was confirmed he would be spending another season on loan at Juventus rather than return.

While Spain as a collective were booed in that game, Morata certainly bore the brunt of it, the crowd making their opinions known after he had wasted four chances. One of those hit the crossbar, meaning he was literally a matter of inches away from winning the match and capping off an otherwise impressive individual performance with a goal.

It has been much the same story during the tournament. No matter how many of those associated with the squad – including Luis Enrique, Dani Olmo, Koke and Aymeric Laporte – publicly defend their colleague, it seems the boo-boys have their target and will not waver.

And the particularly sad aspect of it all is that Morata revealed in a recent interview that even his wife and children have been victims of the abuse when attending Spain's group games at La Cartuja.

But has Morata even been that bad at Euro 2020? Generally speaking, you would have to say no.

 

Now, there is undoubtedly an elephant in the room: his wasteful finishing. No one is going to try and convince you Morata has been effective in front of goal – after all, the data says the exact opposite as his one goal comes from an xG (expected goals) value of 2.9.

In fact, only his team-mate Gerard Moreno has a worse xG differential (2.1) in the group games at Euro 2020, so there's no getting away from the fact Morata has not been clinical enough. On top of that, Morata has missed more Opta-defined "big chances" (four) than any other player in the tournament.

This isn't a new phenomenon, though; since the start of 2017-18 only Lorenzo Insigne (7.8), Gabriel Jesus (9.85) and Edin Dzeko (16.85) have underperformed their xG by more than Morata (7.3) among forwards in the top five leagues (minimum 40 goals scored).

Additionally, among the same group of players since 2017-18, only Alassane Plea (70.3 per cent) has missed a greater proportion of his big chances than Morata (66.4 per cent).

But, intriguingly, no one had more shots on target during the group stage at Euro 2020 than Morata, his six from 11 attempts exactly the same as top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

This suggests the problem is an age-old one with Morata: composure. So much of this part of the game comes down to mentality, and mental health is something Morata has commendably been open about for much of his career.

 

He previously spoke about how mental illnesses should be considered ailments much like physical injuries, and in 2018 he revealed he was seeing a psychologist while at Chelsea.

In that sense, if we consider the incessant abuse of him, Morata's arguably performing better than anyone could feasibly expect.

Now, that raises the question of whether Luis Enrique should have taken Morata out of the firing line before things reached this stage.

It surely cannot be conducive to positive mental health to have 16,000 people enthusiastically communicating that something doesn't impress them much, as if Morata was performing keepy-uppies on stage at a Shania Twain concert.

But the striker insisted last week that he has found himself motivated by the jeers, particularly prior to the penalty against Slovakia. Admittedly, he did miss it.

"I'm proud of the fact I picked up the ball [to take the penalty] after people booed me in the warm-up," he said. "A few years ago, I would have been devastated but I'm really motivated. Whoever thinks the opposite doesn't know me."

It's also worth considering that, while there have been problems with Morata in front of goal, he has otherwise been a positive influence on the team.

For example, Spain's six shot-ending high turnovers have only been bettered by four teams following all group fixtures, while Morata fits into that philosophy given the fact he has won possession in the final third three times – only Memphis Depay and Ronaldo (four each) managed more in the group stage among forwards.

Similarly, Morata brings bursts of positivity and drive to Spain once he gets on the ball, as demonstrated by the fact he has recorded eight progressive carries measuring between five and 10 metres. The only out-and-out strikers to do better in the group stages were Alexander Isak and Ronaldo.

It is also worth bearing in mind that Morata ranks in the top 10 for forwards involved in open-play sequences that end in a shot (12), while his 24 touches in the opposition's box ranked him second behind Kylian Mbappe (27) ahead of the knockout fixtures. Both statistics are further evidence that he has been actively involved in keeping Spain in the ascendancy.

 

Unfortunately for Morata, many will look no further than chances converted when evaluating a striker's performances, and in tournament football when the action is so condensed, conclusions are 100 times more reactionary. Just ask Harry Kane.

But as long as Luis Enrique retains faith and the opportunities keep coming, there remains the chance of a Hollywood-esque conclusion to the hard-on-his-luck tale that has seemed to epitomise the past few years of Morata's career.

In a 2006 biopic of stockbroker Chris Gardner's life, Will Smith portrays a man who has to overcome countless setbacks on his path to making a name for himself.

The script is written for Morata to become the decisive player in a victorious Euro 2020 campaign for Spain, giving him his own successful Pursuit of Happyness.

Spain boss Luis Enrique has described the abuse received by Alvaro Morata as a "crime" and says it should be a matter for the police. 

Morata has been the focus of attention since being jeered by his own fans during a pre-Euro 2020 friendly with Portugal after missing several opportunities.

He was then criticised for his displays in Spain's 0-0 draw with Sweden in their Group E opener and 1-1 draw with Poland, a game in which he scored but missed more chances.

The Juventus striker, whose loan from Atletico Madrid was extended for another season last week, then missed a penalty in Wednesday's 5-0 win against Slovakia, which saw Spain progress from their group in second place.

Morata revealed in an interview that he has received vicious messages on social media during the tournament, while his wife and children have also been targeted in public. 

Luis Enrique has repeatedly leapt to the defence of Morata for his performances and is expected to stick with the 28-year-old for the last-16 tie with Croatia on Monday. 

Speaking at a media conference, the Spain boss said: "The situation is so serious that it must be put in the hands of the police because it is a serious crime. 

"Insulting Morata's relatives is a crime and I hope it is corrected outright."

 

Spain will hope to end a run of falling at the first hurdle in the knockouts of a major tournament when they face Croatia.

After winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, La Roja were eliminated at this stage of both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Despite that, Luis Enrique said his side have no doubts about their ability to get past Croatia. 

"I have had the same confidence since the start of the Championship," he added.

"No team has surprised us. I thought we were going to be first in the group, but football is the result. But in terms of morale and dedication, we are at the max.

"We have not been there since 2012, but against Slovakia we had to win and now we have another final. I don't know if we are going to pass, but my team has no doubts. We are going to try to minimise the threat of the rival."

The match will be Croatia and Spain's third major tournament meeting, with both previous such clashes coming in European Championship group stages. Both sides won once each: Spain in 2012 and Croatia in 2016.

Spain will look to end a run of falling at the first hurdle in the knockouts of a major tournament when they face Croatia in the last 16 of Euro 2020.

A 5-0 thrashing of Slovakia sent La Roja through in second place in Group E after draws with Sweden and Poland had left their chances of progressing in doubt.

Croatia, meanwhile, were 3-1 winners over Scotland on matchday three, ensuring they followed England in escaping Group D to secure a spot in the knockout phase for the fourth time in six European Championship appearances.

They have never progressed beyond the first round after the group stage, while Spain's recent form in the latter rounds of tournaments has also been poor: after winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, they were eliminated at this stage of both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Their previous meeting with Croatia ended in a 3-2 defeat in November 2018 in the Nations League, but coach Luis Enrique would do well to be inspired by the match two months earlier when Spain romped to a 6-0 victory. So too would his forwards.

Spain had a higher expected goals total than any other side in the group stage (8.8), but scored only six times. In fact, the players to underperformed the most based on xG over the first three matchdays were Gerard Moreno (zero goals from 2.1 xG) and the much-maligned Alvaro Morata (one goal from 2.9 xG).

Scoring goals is certainly not a worry for Marcos Llorente, who told AS: "In the first two games, we got a bit stuck with in front of goal, but we've already seen we're capable of creating many chances, even for opponents who sit back.

"We did so and we lacked effectiveness in the first two games, and in the last one, we had it. It was a good victory."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Croatia – Ante Rebic

With Ivan Perisic - who scored one and set up another against Scotland - missing after a positive COVID-19 test, there is great pressure on the rest of the Croatia attack to perform.

Rebic is most likely to replace Perisic in the line-up and, while the Milan forward is far from prolific for his country, his work rate at the very least could be key to disrupt Spain's rhythm.

Spain – Sergio Busquets

It would be wrong to claim the return of Busquets was the reason Spain suddenly found their goalscoring groove against Slovakia, but it is certainly true that there was more purpose to their possession play with the Barcelona man in the middle.

Against a midfield of the strength and experience of Croatia's, Busquets could be critical to La Roja's plans when it comes to keeping the ball and warding off counter-attacks.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be Croatia and Spain's third major tournament meeting, with both previous such clashes coming in European Championship group stages. Both sides won once each: Spain in 2012 and Croatia in 2016.
- Spain forced more pressed sequences (sequences where the opposition has three or fewer passes and the sequence ends within 40 metres of their own goal) than any other side during the Euro 2020 group stages (60), while their average of eight passes allowed per defensive action was the lowest by any side in the round.
-All six of Spain's goals in the group stage were scored by different players, including two own goals. Indeed, Spain were the highest scoring side in the round not to see a player score more than once.
- Last time out against Scotland, Luka Modric became the oldest player to score for Croatia at the Euros (35 years and 286 days), while he also holds the record as the youngest goalscorer for his nation in the competition (22 years and 73 days versus Austria in 2008). Should he score in this game (aged 35 years and 292 days), he would become the second-oldest player in European Championship history to score in consecutive appearances in the competition, after Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ivan Perisic will miss Croatia's Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Spain after testing positive for COVID-19. 

The Croatian Football Association announced the veteran winger's result on Saturday and said he will spend the next 10 days in self-isolation. 

All other national team members and staff tested negative, they said.

The rest of the team will fly from their base in Pula to Copenhagen on Sunday, with their last-16 match against Spain set for Monday. 

Perisic has scored two of Croatia's four goals at the Euros, with the Inter Milan man providing the equaliser in their 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic and netting the final goal in the 3-1 defeat of Scotland. 

Perisic also provided the winning margin in Croatia's 2-1 victory over Spain at Euro 2016 with a goal in the 87th minute. 

 

The abuse aimed at Alvaro Morata and his family by some Spain supporters crossed the line and is "not acceptable", according to team-mate Dani Olmo.

Morata has been the focus of attention for La Roja since being jeered by his own fans during a pre-Euro 2020 friendly with Portugal after missing several opportunities.

He was then criticised for his displays in Spain's 0-0 draw with Sweden in their Group E opener and 1-1 draw with Poland, a game in which he scored but missed more chances.

The Juventus striker, whose loan from Atletico Madrid was extended for another season last week, then missed a penalty in Wednesday's 5-0 win against Slovakia.

Morata revealed in an interview that he has received vicious messages on social media during the tournament, while his wife and children have also been targeted in public. 

"I would like people to put themselves in my shoes and think what it's like to get threats towards my family, people saying: 'I hope your children die'," he told Cadena Cope.

"I've had to leave my phone outside my room. My wife and children have come to the stadium in Seville with Morata on the back of their shirts and people have been shouting at them. 

"It's complicated. I understand people booing me for missing chances but there's a limit."

Morata has had five big chances at Euro 2020 so far. Only Cristiano Ronaldo (six) has had more, though the Portugal skipper has scored five times.

The former Chelsea striker's four Opta-defined big chances missed is the most of any player in the tournament, followed by Gerard Moreno and seven others on three misses.

 

Spain boss Luis Enrique has repeatedly leapt to the defence of Morata for his performances and is expected to stick with the 28-year-old for the last-16 tie with Croatia.

And team-mate Olmo, who started two of the group games, feels the vitriol Morata has faced has gone too far.

"Myself and all the team are against the threats," he said at a news conference on Saturday previewing Spain's knockout clash with Croatia on Monday.

"It is normal that we are criticised, it is part of our sport, football, and we are exposed to it. We accept it. But going beyond it is not acceptable.

"I think people should put themselves in the skin of the player. We all are human being and we need to respect it. 

"Again, I understand if we are criticised as it is part of our profession, but going beyond it is too much."

After winning Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, Spain have since been eliminated from both of their last two major tournament knockout-round matches.

Croatia won the most recent of their meetings with Spain 3-2 in November 2018, a year before Olmo earned his first senior cap for La Roja.

Olmo spent his formative years in Dinamo Zagreb's academy and could have represented Croatia, but he instead pledged allegiance to Spain.

"It's true there was an interest from Croatia, but I believe I have always made clear my side," he said. 

"I was thankful for that interest as I have special love for Croatia, but I always said my dream was to be here with Spain. At the end, I got it, and I am where I always wanted to be.

"Croatian people have showed to be very competitive in all sports, not only in football. 

"It is a country not as big as Spain, France or Germany, but they compete even more in every single sport. And they are very patriotic. They give their all for their country."

Asked if head coach Luis Enrique has asked for any inside information on Croatia, Olmo said: "Not yet! I think he knows their team very well.

"I also obviously know them very well and have played with many of them. If he asks me something, I will give him my opinion, as usual.

"I've spoken to a couple of their players already and cannot wait to play the game."

We had to wait an extra year, but the Euro 2020 group stage threw up drama and records – and in terms of goals it delivered magnificently.

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku hitting their stride, it was a feast for the strikers, with 94 goals scored across the 36 games.

That represented a massive raising of the bar after only 69 goals were netted at the same stage in the 2016 tournament.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the most eye-catching numbers that defined the first 13 days of this delayed tournament – ahead of the do-or-die knockout stage getting under way.

 

Ronaldo making up for lost time

Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score as many as five goals in the group stages of a single European Championship since Michel Platini bagged seven for France in 1984, on his way to a nine-goal tournament tally. Three of Ronaldo's goals for Portugal at this tournament have been penalties, while Platini netted just one spot-kick during France's run 37 years ago.

Impressively, Platini's goals in 1984 came from an expected goals (xG) rate of just 3.32, while Ronaldo has recorded his five from a total of 4.71 so far. Opta builds its expected goals data by measuring the quality of an attempt based on variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance. It means Ronaldo has put away approximately the number of goals he should have expected to score.

Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with France, the first game in the history of the Euros to see three spot-kicks scored, excluding shoot-outs.

Defending champions Portugal have been far from perfect, however, dropping a competition-high five points from winning positions.

While Ronaldo has the most goals of any player so far in these finals, he has not been able to keep up with the rising tide of own goals. There have been a staggering eight, as many as were scored between the 1980 and 2016 editions combined.

 

Firing range

Why wait until seeing the whites of the goalkeeper's eyes before offloading a shot?

Patrik Schick had one quick glance towards David Marshall's goal and let fly from 49.7 yards at Hampden Park to put the Czech Republic 2-0 in front against Scotland. That incredible moment gave Schick the longest-range strike on record at the European Championship, with such measured distances available from the 1980 tournament onwards.

There were 304 shots from outside the penalty area in the group stage, but only 12 goals scored from such long range. That ratio of one goal for every 25.3 shots from long distance was nevertheless an improvement on the Euro 2016 numbers, when just 16 goals from outside the area were scored from 638 attempts across the whole tournament – one every 39.9 shots.

 

Low Countries, tall targets

Belgium and the Netherlands are nations who have experienced mixed fortunes on the football field in the 21st century, but both will feel a big moment could be arriving.

The Belgian Red Devils were absent from all major tournaments between their appearances at the 2002 and 2014 World Cups, while the Dutch were conspicuous by their absence from Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Lukaku, with three goals so far, has been a terrific spearhead of the Belgium side, netting 50 per cent of the goals their players have netted (excluding own goals) at Euro 2020 despite only taking 22 per cent of their shots – seven of 32 attempts.

If Lukaku keeps firing, with Kevin De Bruyne and co prompting from midfield, then Belgium, who have never won a World Cup or European Championship, have a strong chance to show why they are ranked by FIFA as the world's number one team.

Belgium exceeded their collective xG tally by 3.15 – scoring seven against xG of 3.85 – the highest number by which any side surpassed their expected goals in their opening three games.

Their neighbours, the Netherlands, have also caught the eye. Ronald Koeman lifted the Oranje from their doldrums and successor Ronald de Boer has guided the team through the group stage as top scorers and with a 100 per cent record.

That Group C success, with eight goals scored and two conceded, came on the back of Georginio Wijnaldum scoring three times. In doing so, he has overtaken Marco van Basten and Dirk Kuyt on the list of the Netherlands' leading international goalscorers, moving to 25, one ahead of the former Milan and Liverpool forwards.

Or, to put it another way, Wijnaldum is halfway to matching Robin van Persie's record haul of 50 international goals.

 

Boring, boring England?

England, by netting only twice, became the lowest-scoring side to ever finish top of a group at a European Championship. They did not so much storm through Group D as plod a methodical path through to the last-16 stage, although an xG of 4.45 suggests England have at least been creating chances, albeit not finishing as well as they might.

Yet England might yet go far. Germany visit Wembley next Tuesday and will encounter English players who have only been dribbled past 12 times in the group stage, the lowest number among all competing teams. England's expected goals against (xGA) tally is a miserly 1.33, the second lowest in the tournament behind an Italy side (1.3) who have got it right at both ends of the pitch to.

Turkey's players were dribbled past on 36 occasions, a group-stage high, and only North Macedonia (8.85) had a higher xGA than Senol Gunes' team (7.69), who failed to live up to 'dark horse' expectations.

 

Riding their luck? Or being all out of it?

Wales conceded just twice, defying an xGA total of 5.47, and reached the knockout stage on the back of that. The gap of 3.47 between expectation and reality with that metric was the highest among all competing teams.

Conversely, Scotland scored just once against an xG of 4.00 – with 3.00 the highest negative difference between xG and goals scored.

Russia bowed out, and could hardly blame anyone but themselves. Their players made three errors leading to goals – more than any other side and the joint-most by any nation at a finals going back to 1980, the point from which records are available.

Hungary also exited the tournament. They predictably finished last in the 'group of death' – adrift of France, Germany and Portugal – but Hungary were surprisingly ahead for more minutes and trailed for fewer than any other team in that Group F campaign.

Denmark squeezed through in second place behind Belgium in Group B, becoming the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group stage games. After the alarm of the Christian Eriksen situation, many would love them to go further.

Would you Luka that!

Luka Modric became the oldest player to score for Croatia at the Euros, netting a gorgeous strike in the 3-1 win against Scotland at the age of 35 years and 286 days. That made it an unusual double for the veteran playmaker, who also holds the record for being Croatia's youngest scorer at the tournament (22 years 73 days versus Austria in 2008).

Modric continues to marvel, and there was a slice of history for another midfielder in the group stage as Switzerland's Steven Zuber became only the third player since 1980 to register three assists in a single European Championship game – doing so against Turkey – after Portugal's Rui Costa in his rampaging 2000 display that tormented England and Denmark's Michael Laudrup in 1984 against Yugoslavia.

Steve Clarke spoke of his pride after Scotland's first major tournament appearance in 23 years ended in a 3-1 defeat to Croatia.

But the 57-year-old also shared his belief that the disparity in tournament experience between the two sides was a decisive factor in the Scots exiting Euro 2020 at the group stage.

Having picked up just a point from their opening two games, both Scotland and Croatia needed a win at Hampden Park to secure a place in the round of 16.

And it was the visitors who got it, with Nikola Vlasic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic goals rendering a Callum McGregor equaliser - the first Scottish European Championship goal since Ally McCoist against Switzerland on June 18, 1996 - irrelevant.

Reflecting on the defeat, Clarke told ITV: "I'm proud of the players, the fact they managed to get here for the first time in 23 years, that was a big thing for the country, a big thing for this group of players. 

"I think you saw tonight a team that's tournament-hardened, Croatia, against a team at their first tournament in a long time. 

"We had a little spell just before half-time when we got the goal and looked exciting but Croatia are a top team and they showed that tonight."

Clarke declared a 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic in the first group game to be a decisive result in an all-too-brief Scotland campaign.

But he has backed his young squad to learn important lessons from their first major international tournament.

He added: "I think we'll go away and learn from it for sure. Obviously starting on the back foot with losing the first game is something you'd need to address in the next one because that set us up for a difficult one. 

"We left everything on the pitch at Wembley against England on Friday and couldn't quite get it tonight. 

"I think through all the three games they've acquitted themselves well, they've tried their best, showed some good qualities. Obviously, as a coach I don't like to concede so many goals, it's something we have to work on a little bit, but we can improve. 

"We've got young players in the squad, it's a relatively young group of players, and we want to improve together and hopefully we can do that."

Captain Andy Robertson echoed his manager's sentiments and urged his team-mates to turn this into a glorious era for Scotland by ensuring they also qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

He said: "We're a squad that still has a lot of potential, still relatively new to this and not a lot of caps between us and it's important we build on this. 

"It's important we don't take this as the high for this squad because we're a good team on our day and now we need to focus on September. 

"I know it's a long way away, we need to go away on holiday and finally rest, but come September we need to try and qualify for another tournament because it can't go another 23 years. 

"We want to be a team that qualifies for many tournaments and it become the norm that Scotland qualify. 

"That's in our own hands, but we'll think about that another day."

As for the Croatia skipper, Modric, he preferred to revel in his nation sealing safe passage to the knockout stages in second place behind England rather than the wonderful curler he netted to set up the win.

The Real Madrid midfielder is now his country's oldest and youngest ever scorer at a European Championship, having done so at both 35 years and 286 days and 22 years 73 days old.

He told Euro2020.com: "This goal means a lot to me but our play means more, from the beginning until the end. I am happy that my goal helped, but it's most important that the team won.

"We are happy because we played a big match and qualified for the next round.

"We were not happy with performances in the first two matches and we knew we could be better. When we play like this, we are dangerous to everyone."

England, Croatia and the Czech Republic are all heading into the last 16 of Euro 2020 following their respective results on Tuesday, but it was an unhappy evening for Scotland.

Gareth Southgate's Three Lions did what was required to secure top spot, knowing that anything other than a victory would have seen the Czech Republic go through as Group D winners.

At Hampden Park it was a straight shootout between Croatia and Scotland, with the victors prolonging their tournament or both departing early in the event of a draw.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform reviews the best facts from Group D's conclusion.

Czech Republic 0-1 England: Three Lions in historic progression despite struggles in front of goal

Much was made of England's toothless showing in the 0-0 draw with Scotland, with Harry Kane bearing the brunt of the criticism.

They were a little more effective against the Czechs as they at least managed to find the net once, and that was all they needed to reach the knockout stages of the Euros for their fourth consecutive tournament participation (2004, 2012 and 2016).

While Southgate's side played some vibrant football at times, there is still reason for concern in attack – they are the lowest-scoring Euros group winners in the competition's history (two goals).

They failed to attempt a single shot at goal in the second half of a match for the first time since October 2018, with their latest effort falling to Kane in the 26th minute.

Nevertheless, Jack Grealish seemed to justify his selection as he provided the assist for Raheem Sterling's crucial first-half header – the Aston Villa man has set up more goals for England (three) since his debut last September than any other player despite only featuring in nine of their 15 matches in that time.

There seems a strong possibility Grealish has earned his place in the team for the next game, and the same could be said for Sterling, who has now been involved in 20 goals (14 goals, six assists) in his past 19 games for England – he has ended up on the winning side in all 12 matches when finding the net for the national team.

 

Croatia 3-1 Scotland: Clarke's men cannot buck the trend

Scotland were buoyed by their 0-0 draw with England in the previous game, but against Croatia it was a similar story to their Euro 2020 opener against the Czech Republic.

Although Callum McGregor became Scotland's first Euros scorer since June 1996 with his equaliser late in the first half, Croatia's quality shone through in the second period.

Luka Modric put the visitors in front with a gorgeous outside-of-the-boot effort to become Croatia's oldest ever Euros goalscorer (35 years, 286 days) – he also still holds the record for their youngest scorer in the tournament (22y, 73d in 2008).

Ivan Perisic then made sure of the victory towards the end, glancing in a Modric corner to go level with Davor Suker as Croatia's all-time leading scorer at major tournament with nine goals.

It was Croatia's first ever win over Scotland in six meetings and consigned the Scots to successive defeats at Hampden Park for the first time since September 2019.

Scotland have now been eliminated at the group stages in all 11 of their appearances at major tournaments.

 

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