Spain 3 Croatia 0: Lamine Yamal makes history as La Roja impress – The Briefing

It was the first real heavyweight meeting of the European Championship — and it ended up being much more one-sided than many expected.

Spain got their Euro 2024 campaign off to an impressive start with a 3-0 win over Croatia at Berlin’s Olympiastadion thanks to goals from Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz and Dani Carvajal — all scored before half-time.

Real Madrid full-back Carvajal’s strike was assisted by Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal — who became the youngest ever player at a Euros, aged 16 years and 338 days old.

His display was just one of several positives for Spain boss Luis de la Fuente, while there was only disappointment for Croatia legend Luka Modric and his team-mates, who had a late consolation ruled out by the VAR.

Here, our writers Dermot Corrigan, Tim Spiers and Tom Burrows break down the talking points.

How good was Yamal?

He showed just why he is among the hottest emerging superstars in the game.

A fairy tale past 12 months had seen the La Masia academy graduate become the youngest ever La Liga player, Champions League starter, and La Liga scorer.

euros youngest players 2

Today he showed why he is fully deserving of his place in Spain’s senior XI. There was one awkward moment early on when he seemed to be clear behind the Croatia defence, before awkwardly cutting back onto his left foot, but from there he settled in as Spain’s most important attacker.



What makes Lamine Yamal such a special footballer?

It was his persistence and quality, driving at the Croatia defence and then retaining possession in a dangerous area, which led directly to Fabian’s goal for 2-0. Then his tremendous in-swinging cross made it a simple finish for Carvajal to put Spain even further clear.

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Yamal impressed once again, as he made history (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Including scoring on his international debut against Georgia last September, Yamal now has seven goal contributions (two goals and five assists) in his eight senior caps. After the break he was denied a goal of his own by Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic, and then almost provided Morata with another.

“The other day I told Lamine that when I was 17, I was celebrating winning the Under-19 Copa del Rey with Madrid,” Carvajal said of Yamal during the week. “This kid is now important with Barcelona and Spain. It’s mad.”

The date of Yamal’s 17th birthday? July 13 — the day before the Euro 2024 final.

Dermot Corrigan

And how good were Spain?

There were a lot of questions hanging over this Spain team coming into these Euros, from back to front, with coach De La Fuente coming into his first tournament in charge.

And the first quarter of the match did not seem to be going too well, with Croatia having more of the ball, and looking to be growing in confidence.

But then a Croatia move broke down, Spain countered quickly and Morata finished confidently. The often questioned La Roja captain, who had scored just twice in the last five months for his club Atletico Madrid, had returned to form at just the right moment.

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Morata celebrates his goal on Saturday (Peter Lous/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Goalkeeper Unai Simon has also had his doubters, with individual errors costing Spain at previous tournaments. But the Basque stopper looked pretty safe and assured for most of the game, including when palming away Mateo Kovacic’s long range effort at 1-0 up, and punching a ball off Andrej Kramaric’s head close to goal in the second half.

Even De la Fuente’s debatable picks paid off. PSG midfielder Fabian provided an excellent goal and assist, and Chelsea left-back Marc Cucurella cleared off the line in the second half.

Then, however, Morata and Rodri left the pitch apparently injured in the second half, which will cause concern, and Simon made one customary error by giving the ball to Lovro Majer leading to Croatia’s penalty.

So it was not a perfect day for Spain, but a good start nonetheless.

Dermot Corrigan

Croatia’s old guard suffer

There was something very symbolic about Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic’s role in Spain’s second goal in the Olympiastadion.

There appeared to be very little on for Spain, with Croatia nicely set defensively on the edge of their own box, but then Fabian Ruiz wrongfooted Modric who was left facing slack-jawed towards Munich. He then ambled past a helpless Brozovic, who had no intention of risking giving away a penalty with a sliding tackle, allowing Fabian to finish tidily into the corner.

Nice goal, awful defending.

Croatia’s midfield, with Mateo Kovacic completing the trio, has been the steady, reliable presence of the national team for many years, capable of running any football match and producing moments of genius. All are aged over 30 and between them they’re nearing a combined total of 400 caps (375 after today).

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Modric has recently renewed with Real Madrid (Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

They weren’t outplayed by Spain’s younger, friskier midfield, far from it, but Brozovic’s influence as a pivot was shackled by Spain’s impressive pressing game and too often Modric and Kovacic found their team mates to be on different wavelengths.

Croatia missed a couple of easy chances in one box and defended poorly at the back for Spain’s other two goals, so in terms of the defeat you can look at the attack and defence for being more culpable.

When Modric and Kovacic were hooked on 65 minutes, you suspect Zlatko Dalic had one eye on Albania on Wednesday. But, again, the symbolism was there.

Tim Spiers

What did Spain coach Luis de la Fuente say?

We will bring you this after he has spoken at the post-match press conference.

What did Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic say?

We will bring you this after he has spoken at the post-match press conference.

What next for Spain?

Thursday, June 20: Italy (Gelsenkirchen), 8pm BST, 3pm ET

What next for Croatia?

Wednesday, June 19: Albania (Hamburg), 2pm BST, 9am ET

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(Top photo: Sebastian Christoph Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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