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Spain join Croatia in quarter-finals with draw

Croatia 0-0 Spain
Croatia made sure of first place in Group A, extending their run without conceding to 524 minutes, with Spain through as runners-up.

Highlights: Croatia 0-0 Spain
Highlights: Croatia 0-0 Spain

A much-changed Croatia hold Spain in Sliven to clinch top spot in Group A
Santi Denia's Spain also through to last eight in second place, ahead of Austria
Dario Bašić's side have not shipped a goal for 524 minutes in this season's competition 
Quarter-finals: Croatia v Belgium; Spain v Germany (15 May)

Spain reached the UEFA European Under-17 Championship quarter-finals but had to settle for a goalless draw against Group A winners Croatia in Sliven.

With Santi Denia's team needing a point to progress to the last eight, it was a case of job done for Spain, who finished second in the section and now play Group B winners Germany in the last eight. However, having largely held the initiative against opponents who had already qualified and made several changes, they were unable to break down Dario Bašić's committed charges. Croatia's next challenge on Friday will be Belgium, runners-up in Group B.

The first half was a cautious affair, though chances came and went for both sides. Spain's Fran Villalba fired high after cleverly making space on the edge of the box and Dani Olmo nudged an effort just past the near post having evaded three defenders; at the other end, Croatia centre-back Branimir Kalaica headed straight at Iñaki from Davor Lovren's fine free-kick. Spain captain Carles Aleñá also shot too close to Ivan Nevistić following more wing play from Olmo.

The Spaniards raised the intensity after the interval and continued to make the running, Kuki sending in a header that had Nevisitić at full stretch. The same player was involved 12 minutes later, using his body strength to divert Olmo's cross into the path of Villalba, only for the Valencia CF attacker to waste Spain's clearest opportunity.

With time running out, Spain nearly paid a high price for Villalba's profligacy. In the last minute of normal time, Croatia substitute Josip Brekalo, a team-mate of Olmo at GNK Dinamo Zagreb, escaped a clutch of markers to get to the byline and supply a golden chance for Karlo Majić. But with Spanish hearts in mouths, left-back Cucu blocked on the line and preserved their decisive point.

Reaction
Dario Bašić, Croatia coach
We set ourselves two main objectives today. The first was not to concede a goal, to make it six games without conceding, which we achieved. The second was to give some players the chance to rest and others some game time. We don't care who we face in the quarter-finals, but psychologically speaking it's important to have finished first in the group – it's a real bonus for us.

Santi Denia, Spain coach
Croatia didn't give us anything today – they defended very deep and bided their time, waiting for their opportunity to grab a goal, which they very nearly did right at the end. We need to do better, we're very aware that we're going to have to improve if we want to do well in the quarter-finals.

This was a very tough game for us, we knew that if we lost we might well be out, so it was a great test for the boys in terms of keeping a cool head and not losing their shape, which would have made us vulnerable on the break. But we had three good opportunities, particularly for Fran Villalba, so we could have taken all three points.