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Jesus Navas is the surprise hero

Ahead of this game, Croatia had dropped striker Nikica Jelavic which left Mario Mandzukic isolated up front and that seemed to underline a declaration of intent as the game went on. After a frantic opening, the match settled into a pattern whereby Croatia looked to absorb Spanish pressure while hoping to nick anything they could on the counter attack.

For a time, Spain struggled to make a mark on the game but as the match progressed, some opportunities started to come their way. After 21 minutes, Fernando Torres made it to the by-line and drew a fine save from Pletikosa at his near post and as the ball came clear from the following corner, Sergio Ramos’ long range effort also tested the keeper.

Torres and David Silva looked busy throughout but arguably, Croatia could have snatched a half time lead with a decent penalty shout after Ramos seemed to fell Mandzukic in the box.

Croatia had been patient in defence but with Italy a goal up at half time, surely Bilic’s men would have to be more adventurous after the break? The answer to that question nearly arrived on 59 minutes with the best move of the match. As Croatia broke, Luka Modric ran clear and delivered a perfect cross with the outside of his boot that met the head of Ivan Rakitic but sadly for Bilic and his side, the midfielder’s attempt was straight at Casillas who was able to make a point-blank save.

The reigning European champions responded in unexpected fashion by bringing off Fernando Torres and replacing him with Sevilla midfielder Jesus Navas. With no striker once again, there was no real threat from the Spanish and aside from long range efforts, Pletikosa had little to do.

Croatia pressed forward knowing that a winner would take them through and send Spain out of Euro 2012 but Rakitic’s effort was the closest they came. Instead, with their defence strained, Iniesta sprung the offside trap and squared to Navas who fired excitedly into an empty net.

Croatia pressed knowing that a goal could still take them through but it was too late and Bilic now departs the international scene having watched a talented squad fall at the first hurdle.

As for Spain, results from Group D tomorrow will determine their next opponents and in the meantime, both of our experts correctly called a win for Spain in this final match.

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