Captain Iker Casillas admitted that Spain's late victory over Croatia in Gdansk "felt like a weight off our shoulders" after the holders waited until the 88th minute before securing their place in the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals through Jesús Navas's goal. Substitute Navas's strike wrapped up top spot in Group C and calmed Spanish nerves after a "draining" evening in Andrés Iniesta's words.
Iker Casillas, Spain goalkeeper
I think it was a very tense match, but that is normal because it was important to get through to the next round. Croatia were well prepared to face us. They made it very difficult for us to create chances, they defended very well. In the end we were lucky, playing our one-touch football and scoring late on. It felt like a weight of our shoulders.
There are a lot of matches to play, a lot of teams that want to beat Spain and you notice that. Every time we create a chance but a player doesn't score you suffer with him. I was lucky in one situation that could have put us in trouble [saving from Ivan Rakitić's close-range header], but I am happy that the team managed to qualify for the next round.
Jesús Navas, Spain midfielder
Croatia were great opponents, and played on an equal level to us. Their marking was pretty good, and it was very difficult for us to get through. Nevertheless, we were able to fight our way to this victory. All the players put a lot of effort into the game. We always go for the win. That's what we believe in, that's what we play for.
It's great to qualify this way, especially if you win. We added more points to our tally, and finished first in our group. We are very happy about it. Whoever we have to face [in the quarter-finals], we will stick to our game. I am really looking forward to whoever we will have to play.
Andrés Iniesta, Spain midfielder
We suffered because it was a hard, difficult game. It was one of those games where you're close to getting the goal but you don't manage it. We battled to the last and got the win.
It's draining, we're not machines. We had moments where we were up against it. Croatia gave us some problems and showed they're a great team. It was a great goal, with a spectacular pass [from Cesc Fàbregas] and I just had to spot that Navas was coming and give it to him. I don't care who we face next. Whoever we play, it'll be difficult.
Xabi Alonso, Spain midfielder
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 knew we would have to work very hard in this match; ultimately, it was even harder than we would have liked, but you have to admit they did a great job too.
They were a very solid, compact team.
Their defensive and midfield lines stayed close together, something which always requires a lot of effort to break through. We were close to doing so, though without any real clear-cut chances. We managed to keep a clean sheet despite their efforts, and at the end of the day, the goal calmed our nerves.
In football now, teams are well matched. 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. We'll have to work hard, we'll need a bit of luck. This is how it is here, and let's hope we can combine those factors again.
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