De la Fuente delights in variety of Spain attack spearheaded by Lamine Yamal

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Lamine Yamal;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Lamine Yamal</a> has a fine strike on the counterattack brilliant saved by <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Croatia;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Croatia</a>’s Dominik Livakovic.</span><span>Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA</span>

Luis de la Fuente apologised for arriving a little late at the post match press conference, explaining that he had encountered a “couple of roundabouts” on his way but insisted that his team had taken a direct route to victory over Croatia that shows that Spain have the versatility to “damage opponents in many different ways”.

The coach of the selección also appealed for the country to finally recognise the talent of what he called a “brilliant generation” of “insatiable” players after three first-half goals were enough to defeat Croatia 3-0 in the opening game of Group B in Berlin.

Related: Spain unleash high-speed demolition of Croatia to put tiki-taka in the past

Spain’s victory came despite them having less possession than an opponent for the first time in 16 years – or perhaps because they did, the twist on a style that the coach has talked about paying off. “Maybe in other times, having more of the ball guaranteed better results [but] now we are a team who can surprise teams like we have today,” De la Fuente said. “The importance of possession depends on the results. We used the ball very well and we were very decisive in landing blows. We have shown that you don’t have to have so much of the ball if you’re a team like ours, with speed.

Álvaro Morata, Fabián Ruiz and Dani Carvajal scored the goals but De la Fuente also saw Morata and Rodri come off after experiencing knocks. Spain next play Italy on Thursday. Croatia were awarded a penalty in the second half but although Bruno Petkovic scored from the rebound it was ruled out for encroachment after Ivan Perisic had entered the penalty area before the kick had been taken. It was Perisic who passed Petkovic the ball to put it in the back of the net.

De la Fuente added: “We have the ability to continue to impose our style. We played very well with a high press, which allowed us to get the ball back. But one of the characteristics of Spain is our ability to change approaches and that variety is our strength. We have different qualities, different tactical approaches, and that’s an extra difficulty for opponents. If you have players with the speed of Lamine [Yamal] or Nico [Williams] or Ferran [Torres], that gives you something else. And the players know that. I have always tried to communicate that.


“This is a great start, a real morale boost and it lays out a path to follow but we will do so with prudence,” the Spain coach said. “As of now we are already thinking about Italy. We have our feet on the floor. We like the fans and the country to feel excited but we know that in Spain it can go from euphoria to less agreeable emotions.”

The Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic, apologised to the tens of thousands of supporters who had packed into the Olympiastadion. “It was a great atmosphere,” said the 57-year-old, who led the team to the 2018 World Cup final and the semi-finals four years later, said. “I apologise for this bad show today. We were not aggressive enough. I hope it was just a bad day.”