Xabi Alonso relieved after Spain progress by beating Croatia

 

Midfielder Xabi Alonso was simply happy that Spain won their group after they came through a nerve-wracking clash with Croatia to reach the European Championship quarter-finals.

Group C was in the balance until the final few minutes last night, with the reigning champions qualifying with a 1-0 win and Italy joining them in the last eight after beating the Republic of Ireland.

Both teams could have been eliminated had they conceded a late goal, but instead Jesus Navas scored Spain's winner before Mario Balotelli wrapped up a 2-0 win for the Azzurri.

Their respective opponents will be discovered tonight, when France, England and co-hosts Ukraine battle for the two qualifying places in Group D, and Alonso said: "Clearly, the important thing was to advance as group winners.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy because Croatia are a good team and had chances to go through, too. We managed to keep a clean sheet despite their efforts, and at the end of the day, the goal calmed our nerves."

Spain are bidding to become the first team ever to win three successive major international tournaments, having also lifted the World Cup two years ago.

And Alonso continued: "We have achieved great things in the not-so-distant past, but we also struggled a lot, you cannot forget that. If we want to repeat that [success], it'll definitely be another hard task."

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who made a crucial second-half save from Ivan Rakitic's header, said: "They made it very difficult for us to create chances, they defended very well. In the end we were lucky, scoring late on. It felt like a weight off our shoulders.

"I was lucky in one situation that could have put us in trouble (Rakitic's chance) but I am happy the team managed to qualify for the next round."

Sevilla midfielder Rakitic was distraught afterwards, and said: "I did not manage to take the chance that came my way. I think I will probably have sleepless nights thinking about that.

"It was obvious that we gave everything on the pitch, we gave it our best shot. I can honestly say that my soul was left on that pitch, and I think I need a few people to carry me off the pitch because I am literally dead."

Team-mate Ognjen Vukojevic added: "We will regret missing Rakitic's chance - if we had scored that I think it would have changed the course of the game."

But he added: "I think we competed against the mighty Spain. Unfortunately we are not going through to the next round, but I think that Croatia have big prospects for the future. We are going back home with our heads held high."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice