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Alvaro Morata the hero as Spain edges Croatia 5-3 in wild Euro 2020 Round of 16 match

Spain’s striker provides the deciding goal in extra time in back-and-forth contest.

Croatia v Spain - UEFA Euro 2020: Round of 16
Alvaro Morata of Spain celebrates after scoring their side’s fourth goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between Croatia and Spain at Parken Stadium on June 28, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Photo by Friedemann Vogel - Pool/Getty Images

Pedri played a routine ball back to goalkeeper Unai Simon in the 20th minute of Spain’s Euro 2020 round of 16 match against Croatia. The Spanish keeper attempted what should’ve been a routine touch to then play the ball, a move he makes 99 times out of 100. This happened to be the 100th instance. The ball rolled past Simon and into the net, sending Croatia’s fans into a frenzy. Everyone seemed confused by what happened, but Croatia was up 1-0 and Spain looked shocked. The next 10 minutes were full of creative Croatian attacks with several great chances. Spain struggled to maintain possession in this period, still recovering from the own goal. Pedri was tacked with the mistake, but Simon was ultimately the culprit.

It was that kind of day for Spain, until it suddenly wasn’t.

Pablo Sarabia equalized for the favorites in the 38th minute off a rebound and Spain went into the break level. Croatia struggled to maintain possession for much of the second half as Spain continued to attack. The pressure paid off as Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres found the back of the net for the Spanish to present what seemed to be an insurmountable 3-1 lead. After all, Croatia was not able to keep the ball for long periods of time.

The day once again turned into a disaster for Spain.

Croatia found two goals late as Mislav Orsic hit home an easy finish in the 85th minute and Mario Pasalic connected on a header in stoppage time after brilliant run to bring the teams back on level terms at 3-3. This was the type of resiliency Croatia showed during its run to the 2018 World Cup final and the veterans found a way to break through a talented, but inexperienced Spain team late to force extra time.

For Spain, there was still one more twist in the tale.

Simon made up for his blunder early in extra time by denying Andrej Kramaric on what should’ve been a goal from deep inside the box. Spain made another great push and Dani Olmo put a cross inside the box which somehow got past Croatia’s Josip Brekalo. Alvaro Morata, infamous for bungling easy finishes, found the back of the net on a superb strike to put his side in front 4-3.

Croatia’s defense continued to buckle in the first half of extra time and Spain found another goal, with Mikel Oyarzabal finding the net after collecting another cross from the right side of the pitch. Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic got a touch but Oyarzabal’s shot had too much power and put Spain up 5-3. Croatia’s back line almost gave up two more goals shortly after Oyarzabal’s score. Even as Luka Modric led several attempts forward, Croatia didn’t have another miracle comeback this time.

Spain will meet the winner of France and Switzerland in the quarterfinal.