Spain embarrassed World Cup finalists Croatia with a stunning six-goal masterclass of spectacular finishing. It was almost as if they were trying to make a point – we should have been in that World Cup final two months ago against France instead of you.
Zlatko Dalic’s side started well enough but were knocked out of their stride by Saul’s early strike and never recovered as the Asensio-inspired Spain found another gear, and then another, and then another.
The Nations League is all about reducing silly friendlies; it seems the arrival of Luis Enrique means no more sloppy Spain. As punchless as they were against Russia in their last-16 exit at the World Cup they were unforgiving in this game.
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Spain (4-3-3): De Gea 6; Carvajal 8 (Azpilicueta 75), Nacho 6, Ramos 7, Gaya 6; Ceballos 7, Busquets 6 (Rodri (59), Saul 7 (Alcantara 65); Asensio 9, Rodrigo 8, Isco 6
Goals: Saul 24, Asensio 33 Kalinic OG 35, Rodrigo 49, Ramos 57, Isco 70
Croatia (4-2-3-1): Kalinic 6; Vrsalijko 7 (Rog 20), Mitrovic 6, Vida 6, Pivaric 6; Rakitic 6, Brozovic 6 (Pjaca 62); Kovacic 6, Modric 6, Perisic 6; Santini 5 (Livaja 71)
Booked: Santini, Brozovic.
After Saul’s opener, there were two rocket shots from Marco Asensio (the second they may be credited as an own-goal) a fourth and fifth from Rodrigo and Sergio Ramos and then a sixth from Isco as they gave Croatia the sort of dressing down that made England’s narrow defeat to them on Saturday at Wembley seem decidedly respectful.
Croatia failed to take early chances and Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic gifted possession to create the second goal but Spain were spectacular in patches and their finishing was breathtaking.
Spain started with six Real Madrid players and only Sergio Busquets representing Barcelona. So much for those early fears that coach Luis Enrique would favour Barça – although Madrid fans could still complain that he’s wearing-out their players instead of those of their rival.
Both sides had early chances with Ivan Rakitic, playing his 100th game for Croatia, bending a shot just wide of David de Gea’s goal after Ivan Perisic had chased down Busquets.
Spain responded when Busquets passed in behind Croatia left-back Josip Pivaric and Dani Carvajal crossed dangerously. The ball was cleared by Matej Mitrovic just past his own post.