90min
Our 21

Pedri and Ferran Torres lead the way for Spain in Euro 2020 last 16 victory

Robbie Copeland
Pedri and Torres drove Spain forward against Croatia
Pedri and Torres drove Spain forward against Croatia / Pixsell/MB Media/Getty Images
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The days beyond Xavi, Iniesta, David Villa and Fernando Torres were always going to be an uncertain, transitional period for Spain.

As their golden generation hung up their boots one by one, they have desperately struggled to live up to their former glories ever since they were last crowned European champions in 2012. Incredibly, heading into their Euro 2020 clash with Croatia, they hadn't won a knockout game at a major tournament ever since conquering Italy in Kiev eight years ago.

Slowly, though, it's starting to seem like the cavalry has arrived.

They needed extra-time to get the better of Croatia in one of the best games the European championships has ever seen. But by the time the final whistle blew on a breathless last 16 clash, Spain had scored five goals for the second game in succession.

It was disjointed as much as it was vibrant from Luis Enrique's team. Playing like this, you wouldn't dare predict how far they will go. But there is one thing we can say for sure - their future is not as bleak as we once thought.

Pedri and Ferran Torres in particular look like special talents set to dominate the international scene in the years to come.

The two started together for only the fifth time in their fledgling international careers, and while the result wasn't exactly a flawless performance from Spain, their diamonds in the rough shone brighter than they ever have before.

A quick glance at the stats would tell you Torres ran the show, and that would be a fair assessment. The Man City youngster's wing-play was exemplary, and explained why Enrique is so intent on creating a more direct Spanish team than we've seen in the past.

Time and again he was running onto balls in behind, beating his man and making things happen. His cross for Cesar Aziplicueta's equaliser was first-class, and it looked as if he'd won the game in normal time with a cool finish in the second half.

The game descended into madness the longer it went on. Croatia came roaring back into it, forcing extra-time from nowhere when Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic struck. Six substitutions apiece had disrupted the rhythm and caused all sorts of chaos, but it spoke to the influence of Barcelona's Pedri that he was not one of the players Enrique opted to sacrifice.

Sergio Busquets and Koke both made way, but Pedri - whose creative influence had driven Spain forward throughout the first 90 minutes - remained.

He'd nearly registered one of the best assists Euro 2020 had seen in the early stages of the game, and was instrumental in creating three of their five goals, finding space behind the Croatia midfield and feeding through balls to a dangerous looking forward line.

The fact that they needed extra-time to win a game they'd led 3-1 with six minutes remaining says a lot about Spain's vulnerability, and why they still won't be considered as one of the favourites for the tournament even though they've now reached the quarter-finals of a tournament for the first time since 2012.

But they are a better, more exciting side than many of us thought they would be before a ball was kicked at Euro 2020.

With Torres and Pedri causing all sorts of mayhem, the present looks bright - but the future looks even brighter.

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