View from Spain: A nervy national night in crunch Croatia clash

For the last half-hour of Monday night's nervous Croatia match, it seemed the only Spaniards not completely bricking it were TV station Telecinco's commentators.

“Everything’s OK!” was the message for much of the game, despite everything clearly not being OK. “It’s a sign that there’s no need to panic, and that everything’s under control,” opined a BS-producing pundit when Spain’s only striker came off to be replaced with yet another dithering midfielder.

However, this cool and calm approach could only last so long before the scream of “for the love of God, shoot!” came blasting through the TV speakers of Spain at yet another attempt at an Arsenal-style finish came to nothing.

Desperation and panic were the overriding sensations across the nation, with LLL hearing thumps and screams of frustration from upstairs, down the hall and even across the street as supporters implored their team to stop passing the ball into the net wherever possible and sully themselves by taking a frackin’ shot for once.

Perhaps the only Spaniard not to feel this almost unbearable tension was the one closest to the action: Iker Casillas squeeze and touchline reporter Sara Carbonero, who sounded as bored as you like while noting that the grass is green, someone is warming up and it might rain. “Thanks Sara” is now a Twitter trend in Spain, in response to her illuminating pearls of wisdom.

The national mood began as "a goal will come at some point", moved to "a draw will be fine" and ended up as a desperate "Merciful Zeus, if Croatia score, then we’re out!” Even Sevilla manager Míchel admitted on radio station Cadena Ser that he spent the final 10 minutes of the game standing up in front of the TV, like millions of others.

La Roja road: Spain fans outside the Bernabeu

Tuesday morning sees sweaty brows being wiped with a sense of got-away-with-that-one – a far cry from the euphoria of the Ireland victory. “Top of the group! But what a scare” cries the headline in AS, with the editor noting that Croatia should have had two penalties. “These elite referees are treating us like the big teams. A sign that this is what we are,” claims Alfredo Relaño.

The paper’s match report frets that Spain are repeating what has happened to Barcelona over the past season in terms of their ability to close out games. “Chelsea have turned into a sort of Robin Hood. Their way of knocking Barça out of the Champions League shows the path to follow,” claims the paper, being a little unfair on what was a fairly positive approach from Croatia.

Marca writes that “To be the champion, you have to suffer” and sees the positive side of the evening: Iker Casillas and Andrés Iniesta are looking very sharp indeed, and Spain have now gone unbeaten in their last 17 official games. The hope here lies with Vicente Del Bosque who feels that now the group stages are over, “we’ll be able to play with our philosophy and be more like ourselves.”

One thing that Monday’s match did achieve was making much of the country realise that they really did want Spain to win the Euros again – that the joy of football celebration wasn't old hat after two tournament wins.

For 15 or so minutes, there was the very real, very sticky feeling that Spain were going to be heading home very prematurely indeed. Nobody wants to feel like that again. The message is being sent out to the Spanish players to up their game and then some. 

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