Jesus Navas scored his first competitive international goal as Spain progressed into the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 as Group C winners. Steve Pass takes a look at the Sevilla winger's contribution as he came off the bench to land the decisive blow for the champions.
Last Updated: June 18, 2012 11:40pm
Jesus Navas: Scored his first goal for Spain in a competitive match
Jesus Navas notched the winner with two minutes remaining as champions Spain progressed into the quarter-finals at Croatia's expense.
While Vicente del Bosque's side were odds on to beat Croatia and win the group, the result was in doubt until the 88th minute in Gdansk. Indeed Spain could have been looking at an unthinkable early exit from the tournament had Ivan Rakitic scored a gilt-edged second-half chance from Luka Modric's cross.
After surviving this scare, Navas' goal near the death saw Spain home and was just reward for the Sevilla winger who was a real livewire following his introduction on the hour-mark for the ineffective Fernando Torres.
Up to that point, the champions were lacklustre and created few problems but Navas' pace immediately proved a threat down the right flank.
He won three corners in his first 11 minutes on the pitch and also had a shot saved by Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa before he scored the decisive goal.
This came when Cesc Fabregas sprung the offside trap with a pinpoint pass to release Andres Iniesta who then squared the ball for Navas to tap home.
As well as claiming the three points which ensured Spain progressed as Group C winners, the goal also represents a remarkable turnaround for the promising winger whose well-documented anxiety earlier in his career forced him to announce his international retirement.
However, the 26-year-old managed to overcome these problems to earn a call-up for the 2010 World Cup, scoring the only goal in a warm-up friendly against South Korea.
In the tournament itself, Navas featured in three matches, including the final as Spain beat Holland 1-0 to claim their first ever World crown.
Prior to this game against Croatia, Navas has been used once off the bench in this tournament, in the opening 1-1 draw with Italy.
But after this telling contribution here, Spain boss Del Bosque may be tempted to utilise his skills from the off.
However, given his pace and good ball-skills, he could remain on the bench as the ideal impact player against tiring legs, similar to Theo Walcott, who also made a telling contribution for England when he was unleashed against Sweden.