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Gaizka Mendieta: Spain should keep the ball, make Croatia run

In his latest column, the ex-Spain midfielder warns that La Roja should not get too far ahead of themselves after hitting five last time out, but reckons passing opponents into submission could be the way to go.

Leading into the Slovakia game, there was a bit of a negative overreaction surrounding Spain.

Live build-up: Croatia vs Spain

I said the positive for the team was that they were making chances. They just weren’t taking them. But given the number of opportunities being made, I was confident they would start to score because players of the quality of Ferran Torres, Gerard Moreno, Álvaro Morata and Dani Olmo all have the ability to score.

There was always going to be a turning point when you are creating so many chances and luckily for us it came against Slovakia. Scoring goals is great for players’ confidence, and it is fantastic to see the coach’s game plan work and get its reward – a record-equalling finals win, no less.

Spain: Who is most likely to...?

I think it’s important that we don’t get carried away and start saying Spain are favourites to win the tournament; you need to find a balance and I think Spain are slowly finding their feet in the competition.

The team will now feel more confident in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. When it comes to playing against Croatia, you can say: "We know our philosophy works, let’s focus on ourselves and what we believe in."

In order to beat Croatia in the last 16, I’d say you need to go after them and try to outplay them. They have lots of individual quality with players who bring different things to the table.

Spain need to play at a high tempo, try to win the ball back as soon as they lose it, press Croatia and put them under pressure. We then need to play our passing game, keep the ball and make Croatia run – it is something they won't enjoy.

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