If you had to pick one player that would lose Spain the game, it would be Sergio Ramos
By Ruairi Daly
If there was one player that was going to win Spain a game of football it was Andrés Iniesta, as he showed in the opening two group games. If you had to pick one player that would lose them the game, it would be Sergio Ramos.
A combination of laziness and poor defending from the latter for Croatia’s opening goal, as well as the penalty miss, ultimately cost Spain first place in the group. Ramos has never been the greatest central defender as is too often exposed, even in elite sides he has played in, and his 21 career red cards are the ugly testament to that. Now Spain has the task of facing Italy in the last-16 of the tournament, whom they routed 4-0 in the 2012 final.
It was a strange night and when the teams were announced, as Croatia sensibly made five changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Czech Republic. On paper it was supposed to be a walk in the park for Spain and assure their place atop Group D.
Vicente Del Bosque’s refusal to change his side after a near perfect performance against Turkey showed clear signs of naivety to the fatigue players suffer throughout a tournament. As a result, his side will now suffer further by facing the Italians in Paris on Monday evening.
Spain looked like the team of old that everyone feared in the opening 10 minutes against Croatia, as Álvaro Morata tapped home his second goal of the tournament on the same day he re-signed with Real Madrid for €30 million less than two years after leaving Los Blancos.
However, in the next 30 minutes, Morata drifted further wide as Spain took their foot off the pedal and went in reverse. Relinquishing possession uncharacteristically due to fatigue, Spain allowed Croatia to find their rhythm in the game, even without Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić in midfield. The sucker punch came just before half-time, as Nikola Kalinić beat Ramos to the ball and poked the ball home at David De Gea’s near post.
The arrogance of Spain came to the forefront when Ramos placed the ball on the penalty spot after Silva was bundled over. Iniesta or Fabregas were the clear favourites to take it but nevertheless Ramos stepped up. Remarkably, under Del Bosque, Spain have missed 47% of penalties and have also missed more penalties (5) in European Championship finals history than any other nation.
Three minutes from time Ivan Perišić, who put on a masterful performance, gave Ante Cacic’s men the win with De Gea getting beat again at his near post. It was a priceless win for Croatia at a huge cost to Spain, who may have to face the World Champions Germany in the quarter-final, rather than Switzerland or Poland. After that they could face the hosts France in the semi-final, showing last night’s loss has stacked the odds heavily against the defending champions.
Sergio Ramos doing football exercise, by Ramon Ortega ( https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Ruben_Ortega), CC BY-SA4.0 Int’l
Born in Newry, Ireland, Ruairi Daly is doing Sports Journalism at Staffordshire University in England. He is a freelance journalist who hopes to go full time once he’s finished university. Ruairi runs his own website called ReadCeltic which focuses on news and matches related to the Scottish based football club. He loves to travel and get to know the many cultures around the world. He’s having the time of his life immersed in the Spanish culture while he works with Guidepost.
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