Spain started their Euro 2024 run with a commanding 3-0 victory against Croatia on Saturday, with Fabian Ruiz playing a starring role.

While all tournament games are crucial, the matchup was immense considering how competitive Group B is. Along with the two continental heavyweights, reigning European champions Italy is in the group as well. Losing this fixture would potentially put either side behind the eight ball.

Also highlighting the matchup was Spanish sensation Lamine Yamal. The 16-year-old phenom became the youngest player to ever feature at the Euros.

Not only did the Barcelona star break the record, but he did it by some margin. The previous record was held by former 17-year-old Poland midfielder Kacper Kozlowski.

Croatian star Luka Modric had just completed his fourth senior season at Dinamo Zagreb when Yamal was born.

Spain scores trio of goals before halftime break

Spain, perhaps unsurprisingly, took control of the ball throughout the early stages of the match. Yamal was also used as a key outlet for his teammates going forward. The teen first found himself in a quality area inside the seventh minute. He then picked out Alvaro Morata near the edge of the Croatian box. The forward, however, sent a relatively tame effort towards Dominik Livakovic.

Spain finally took advantage of their chances by grabbing the lead in the 29th minute with a goal from Morata. Fabian Ruiz created the strike with a glorious ball that cut through the Croatian defense. The striker latched on to the clever pass, ran towards goal, and slotted a shot beyond Livakovic’s outstretched foot.

Ruiz then doubled his team’s lead just three minutes later. The creator of the first goal collected possession just outside of Croatia’s box, dribbled by a defender, and placed the ball into the bottom corner of the net. The goal was the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder’s third ever score for his national team. Ruiz also recently netted a goal in Spain’s most recent friendly fixture.

Lamine Yamal looked perfectly at home in tournament football
Lamine Yamal looked perfectly at home in tournament football

Lamine Yamal looked perfectly at home in tournament football

Spain went on to grab their third goal of the opening period just moments from the halftime break. The aforementioned Yamal started the play by sending a beautiful cross into the box from a corner routine.

Real Madrid‘s Dani Carvajal somehow found himself all alone just a few yards from goal. The defender was able to stretch out a leg and get enough contact on the ball to put it beyond Livakovic.

Croatia fails to convert penalty kick late in matchup

Both sides had great opportunities to score early in the second half. Livakovic made an incredible save to deny a goal from Yamal in the 52nd minute.

The teen looked certain to score, but the Croatian keeper got down fast to make the block. Marc Cucurella then seemingly saved a goal at the other end just three minutes later. As a scramble ensued inside Spain’s box, the full back bravely stepped in front of a dangerous shot to keep the three-goal lead.

Croatia was given a late lifeline in the match thanks to a rare mistake by Simon. The Spanish goalkeeper was fantastic throughout the game, but a lapse in judgement gave his opponents a clear chance at a goal.

Midfielder Rodri then brought down a player inside the box to give Croatia a penalty kick.

Simon, however, redeemed himself by saving the spot kick, only for the rebound to fall to Perisic who put a cross into the box, which was converted by Bruno Petkovic.

However, Perisic was deemed to have encroached into the penalty area and the goal was ruled out and Spain were given a free-kick.

The only real cause for concern for Spain on the day occurred with potential injury issues. Morata and Rodri were both forced off of the pitch seemingly due to a slight problems. The duo, however, was able to walk off of the pitch without noticeable limps. Both players were also seen smiling after the victory.

Spain will next try to take the positive momentum into a massive matchup with Italy. Croatia, on the other hand, is set to face Albania next in essentially a must-win game for Modric’s team.

Photo credits: IMAGO / Matthias Koch : IMAGO / Jan Huebner