A meeting between two group runners-up, questions had been asked of both these sides in the build-up, particularly of Spain’s clinical edge in front of goal. Yet a five-goal salvo in the Danish capital in a Euros classic, coming from behind and then winning the tie again in extra-time, took them to 10 in the past two matches, with Azpilicueta a surprisingly regular feature of their attacks.
The 31-year-old had five touches inside the opposition box throughout the game, an early one coming with his head from a right-sided free-kick curled in dangerously. Yet the delivery was a little behind the defender and his effort was comfortable for Dominik Livakovic, the Croatia keeper.
Despite a strong start, Spain found themselves 1-0 down after 20 minutes in the most bizarre of circumstances as Barcelona midfielder Pedri fired a back pass to Unai Simon and the ball bounced inexplicably over the goalkeeper’s outstretched boot. It was the furthest distance an own goal has been scored in Euros history and briefly rattled the Spaniards from their early flow.
Kovacic demonstrated his typically classy touches in midfield, bursting forward with the ball whenever Croatia were able to get forward, and hit one rising strike narrowly over as his side gained the initiative after the breakthrough.