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Match Report (UEFA Nations League, League A): Spain 6 - 0 Croatia

Marco Asensio puts on a masterful display.

Spain v Croatia - UEFA Nations League A Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Match Recap

Spain’s UEFA Nations League match-up with Croatia initially appeared like it would be a cracker of a contest. Both coaches selected strong line-ups, with Croatia manager Zlatko Dalić’s decision to field Kovačić alongside Modrić, Rakitić, and Brozović sparking excitement and rumors that he might experiment with a diamond midfield.

Unfortunately, Dalić strangely chose to field Mateo on the right-wing, thereby preserving Croatia’s typical 4-3-3 formation. An early Vrsaljko injury led to another puzzling move, as central midfielder Marko Rog came on to replace him.

Luis Enrique chose to go more conventional by opting to play everyone in their best positions; Isco and Asensio out wide, Ceballos as an LCM, etc.

Despite Spain’s better built eleven, it was Croatia who started on the front foot thanks to their well drilled high press. Modric and Rakitic smartly stepped up in line with Santini to pressure Ramos, Nacho, and Busquets, allowing Dalić’s men to control the opening minutes of the game. This led to a couple good chances, one of which was wasted badly by striker Santini, before Spain began to work themselves back into the match.

La Furia Roja achieved this largely thanks to Sergio Ramos’ qualities on the ball, which permitted Spain to ride the initial waves of pressure before successfully progressing up the pitch on a more regular basis. Once this happened, Croatia settled into a deeper defensive shape that was much easier to exploit.

For whatever reason, Perisić failed to track Carvajal’s runs the same way Kovačić did with Gayá, thereby enabling Ramos to find the Real Madrid right back in space via inch-perfect diagonals. This was compounded by Croatia’s desire to stay locally compact, meaning that their far side fullbacks were always tucked in.

The combination of those weaknesses proved to be Croatia’s undoing; Spain’s first goal came from a Ramos long ball to Carvajal and their third came from a Ceballos switch that found Asensio in acres of space.

Those two goals were sandwiched by another Asensio strike that came off some good Spain pressing - another tactical feature that paved the path for La Roja to reassert themselves.

The quick succession of goals proved to be too much from Croatia and they capitulated completely in the second half, conceding three more of Spain’s efforts.

Player Ratings



Rating: 9/10

Sergio Ramos had an extremely good game. His headed goal off a corner kick to make it 5-0 was only a small part of a fantastic offensive performance that saw him shrug off Croatia’s press and instigate attacks in the final third through his diagonals. He ended the ninety minutes with 133/137 completed passes (97.1% passing accuracy) and 8/9 successful long balls.

This is the heat map of someone who completely dominated build-up play.


Rating: 7/10

Nacho wasn’t nearly as spectacular as his partner but he put in a solid shift nonetheless. He also attempted plenty of long balls - completing 7/11 - and was generally neat in his distribution.


Rating: 8.5/10

Dani Carvajal was excellent. His offensive runs were relentless and completely dismantled Croatia’s defensive structure.

His assist proved to be the first of what ended up being a rout and he probably could’ve bagged another had the finish been more precise.


Rating: 8/10

Ceballos’ press resistance - highlighted by a magical turn early in the first half - was crucial to Spain eventually breaking past Croatia’s high pressure and his ball circulation was purposeful and incisive.

A solid outing by a player who could prove to be significant for Real Madrid this season.


Rating: 7.5/10

Isco was pretty average for a lot of the first half; he made a poor decision playing out from the back by lofting a pass into Nacho’s chest when the center back was in his own box and failed to initiate much. It wasn’t till Asensio’s goals that the diminutive playmaker came to life, showing off his silky ball control and affinity for combination play. We saw more of this in the second half, where his confidence grew and he locked up the game with a well taken goal to make it 6-0.


Rating: 10/10

Marco Asensio was magnificent. He scored a ridiculous long range goal, almost scored another (it ended up being an own goal), and dished out three assists.



Rating: 5.5/10

Luka had some good pressing moments before Spain found their composure and scored a ton of goals. His 37 touches demonstrates that he hardly got the ball and on defense there was little he could do to stem the bleeding.

Not one of his greatest performances but not exactly his fault either.


Rating: 4/10

Mateo Kovačić is not a right-winger.

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