It just wasn’t Luka Modric’s day as Spain run riot. Picture: AFP.
It just wasn’t Luka Modric’s day as Spain run riot. Picture: AFP.

World Cup runners-up leak six goals

LUIS Enrique couldn't have asked for a much better start as manager 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 runner-up Croatia, keeping Enrique perfect since taking over as La Roja's coach.

It was the biggest defeat ever for Croatia, who was 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, Belgium won 3-0 at Iceland in their Nations League debut.

England followed the loss to Spain with a 1-0 win in a friendly against Switzerland, which had routed Iceland 6-0 in the Nations League. Marcus Rashford scored England's winner in Leicester.

The Nations League gives UEFA's 55 member countries competitive games and eliminates often meaningless friendlies.

Luka Modric's Croatia threatened early in the south-eastern 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 got on the scoresheet in the rout. Picture: Getty.
Sergio Ramos got on the scoresheet in the rout. Picture: Getty.

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, which 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.



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