Spain kicked off their Euro 2024 campaign comfortably, with an impressive win over Croatia in front of a sold-out crowd in Berlin. The goals came pouring in early for Luis de la Fuente’s men, with first-half goals from Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz, and Dani Carvajal sealing the win for the three-time European Champions.

La Roja were lauded as one of the top contenders at this year’s tournament, although there were concerns about their disappointing displays at previous tournaments. But they put all concerns to bed against a strong Croatia side, giving opposing teams a glimpse of what’s to come.

It was another record-breaking night for Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest player to ever play at the Euros. At 16 years and 338 days, the La Masia sensation eclipsed Kacper Kozlowski, who held the record after featuring in Euro 2020 at 17 years and 246 days.

How Things Went Down

Both Spain and Croatia had their fair share of possession in the opening 20 minutes, but Spain had the better looks in front of goal, with Morata testing Dominik Livakovic in the 7th minute and Yamal narrowly missing a left-footed strike from the right side of the penalty area. Osasuna’s Ante Budimir also missed a header from close range, Croatia’s first goal attempt of the game.

The breakthrough came after almost half an hour of play; Morata opened the scoring to silence traveling Croatian fans after a sublime through pass from Ruiz. Spain’s captain received the ball following a fast break and drove into the penalty area before firing a left-footed shot from the center of the box to beat Livakovic.

Croatia tried to give an immediate response after falling behind. Mateo Kovacic fired a low shot from the edge of the penalty area, but it was an easy save for Unai Simon.

Ruiz would include his name on the scoresheet three minutes later. He received a pass from Pedri, before beating two Croatian defenders and shooting past Livakovic for Spain’s second of the afternoon.

Again, Croatia tried to respond immediately, and this time, it was Marcelo Brozovic with the shot attempt. Josko Gvardiol dazzled down the left flank and found the Al-Nassr player, who fired a shot from close range. Unai Simon made yet another great save but he couldn’t keep the ball. Majer was there to clean up the finish but only managed to hit the side netting.

Croatia continued to mount some pressure on Spain’s defense and nearly pulled one back from a Gvardiol shot in the 41st minute. The Manchester City defender drilled a shot at Spain’s goal, beating Simon but missing Ante Budimir, who tried to divert it into the back of the net.

The Balkans would pay for their missed opportunity at the stroke of halftime as Spain extended their lead through Dani Carvajal. After a series of typical Spain passes on the right wing, Yamal flung in a masterful cross into the penalty area. Carvajal was the first to meet the ball and poked it past Livakovic for Spain’s third.

Spain had the first real opportunity in the second half. In the 53rd minute, Yamal received a pass from fellow Barça teammate Pedri and was close to breaking yet another record with a goal, firing a close-range left-footed shot. However, the youngster was denied by a flying Livakovic who tipped the ball around the post. Morata tried to pounce on the follow-up but his shot was off-target.

Both coaches made a series of changes shortly after. De la Fuente brought in Dani Olmo to replace Pedri and Zlatko Dalic responded, subbing in Ivan Perisic for Budimir. Croatia also made a double change, as Luka Susik replaced Kovacic and Croatian talisman Luka Modric, who endured a quiet game, gave way for Mario Pašalić. Morata got some deserved rest too, giving room for Mikel Oyazarbal and Nico Williams was also replaced by Mikel Merino.

Croatia made their final change of the day with Bruno Petkovic coming on for Andrej Kramaric, and he almost immediately made an impact six minutes later. The 29-year-old was brought down by Rodri in Spain’s penalty area after being clear on goal. The Manchester City defensive midfielder received a booking as Petkovic stepped up to take the spot-kick.

Everything continued to go wrong for the Balkans, with their only hope for a consolation goal denied after Simon saved Petkovic’s penalty before VAR disallowed the Dinamo Zagreb player’s follow-up goal.

De la Fuente made his final substitutions shortly after, replacing Rodri with Martin Zubimendi and the impressive Yamal with another Barça teammate Ferran Torres. 

Spain’s convincing win puts them on top of Group B, with Italy also securing a 2-1 win over Albania. As for Croatia, they find themselves last on the table based on goal difference.

Key Takeaways from Spain’s Dominant Victory

The demand for Croatia tickets for the tie against Spain was high, with both teams renewing their rivalry at Euro 2024. Both teams have met in four straight Euros tournaments, dating back to Euro 2012. Spain beat Croatia in Euro 2012, but the Balkans got their revenge in Euro 2016. La Roja went on to have the last laugh at Euro 2020, knocking Croatia out of the competition in the Round of 16.

Morata became the first player to score against the same nation in three European Championships after his 29th-minute goal. The Atletico Madrid forward also found the back of the net against Croatia at Euro 2016 and 2020.

It was also 10 goals in major international tournaments for Morata, making him Spain’s second-highest goalscorer on the big stage, only behind David Villa (13). The 31-year-old joins Antoine Griezmann and Alan Shearer in third on the all-time European Championship top scorer list, behind Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (14) and France legend Michel Platini (9).

Spain began their European Championship campaign with a three-goal win for the second time in their history. They beat Russia 4-1 in their first game en route to becoming continental champions in 2008.

As for Croatia, the 3-0 loss was their joint-heaviest defeat at a major tournament.  They also lost 3-0 against Portugal in their debut European Championship tournament in 1996 and against Argentina at the FIFA World Cup semi-final two years ago.

What’s Next?

Croatia will have a chance to salvage their Euro 2024 hopes when they take on Albania on Thursday, with Spain set to face defending champions Italy on the same day.

Should Spain win, they’ll qualify for the knockout stage and could secure the top spot in Group B if Croatia manages to defeat Albania. An unlikely loss to Albania, however, could spell doom for Croatia if both Spain and Italy draw or if Italy wins.