Enrique lauds team’s attitude after 6-0 rout of Croatia
Madrid: Luis Enrique couldn’t have asked for a much better start as coach of Spain’s national team. Two matches, two convincing wins against top opponents in the Uefa Nations League.
Spain followed their gritty 2-1 win against England at Wembley Stadium last week with a 6-0 rout of World Cup runners-up Croatia on Tuesday, keeping Enrique perfect since taking over as La Roja’s coach.
It was the biggest defeat ever for Croatia, who are playing their first competitive game since reaching the World Cup final in Russia.
The victory left Spain comfortably ahead in Group 4 of the top-tiered League A in Europe’s newest football competition, in good position to reach the tournament’s final four in June.
In the other League A match on Tuesday, Belgium won 3-0 at Iceland in its Nations League debut.
Luka Modric’s Croatia threatened early in the southeastern Spanish city of Elche, but Spain took control of the match by scoring three goals in 11 first-half minutes.
“They had chances in the beginning but after that we were clearly superior,” Enrique said. “It’s difficult to find anything to criticise after a match played at this level. Our attitude has been commendable.”
Saul Niguez, who is becoming an undisputable starter in Enrique’s team, headed in a cross by Dani Carvajal in the 24th minute, then Marco Asensio hit two remarkable long-range shots in the 33rd and 35th to give La Roja a comfortable lead before halftime. His second strike bounced off the post and the back of goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic, who was awarded an own goal.
Asensio, who was not among the starters against England, also set up Rodrigo’s goal early in the second half with a perfect through ball behind the defense.
Sergio Ramos, one of the remaining members of Spain’s golden generation, added the fifth goal with a header off a corner kick in the 57th minute, and Isco closed the scoring in the 70th after another set up by Asensio.
Croatia, who lost the World Cup final to France, fell apart after defender Sime Vrsaljko had to be substituted due to an injury just minutes before Spain’s first goal.
“We were very good in the first 20 minutes, we had three clear chances, but after that and Vrsaljko’s injury, we vanished from the pitch,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said. “We were not even a shadow of the team from before.”
Croatia’s biggest defeat had been a 5-1 away loss against England at Wembley in 2009.
The Croats were making their Nations League debut after playing European champion Portugal to a 1-1 draw in a friendly last week.
Enrique took over Spain after the team’s elimination against Russia in the round of 16 of the World Cup. Spain were coached by Fernando Hierro in Russia after Julen Lopetegui was fired two days before the tournament.
Belgium earned a comfortable win over Iceland thanks to a pair of goals by Romelu Lukaku and one from Eden Hazard. Lukaku and Hazard, whose goal came off a penalty kick, were two of Belgium’s top players in its third-place campaign at the World Cup.
Belgium had defeated Scotland 4-0 in a friendly last week in Glasgow.
In the second-tiered League B, Bosnia-Herzegovina followed their opening win at Northern Ireland with a 1-0 home victory against Austria, thanks to a 78th-minute goal by Edin Dzeko.
In League C, Finland edged Estonia 1-0 at home on Teemu Pukki’s early goal for their second straight win. Hungary, who lost their opener to Finland, defeated Greece 2-1 in Budapest.
In League D, Luxembourg won 3-0 at San Marino for their second consecutive victory, while Moldova played a scoreless home draw with Belarus.