Andres Iniesta is the difference for Spain
The story of Spain's 1-0 win over Czech Republic was a familiar one; stop me if you've heard it before: The Spanish dominated possession, created more chances, and controlled the tempo of the match, but were simply unable to break down a resilient Czech side determined to keep numbers behind the ball.
It took a special moment from Andres Iniesta to put the reigning European champions ahead, and when his team needed him the most, he was there to deliver the perfect cross for Gerard Pique to nod home.
Man of the Match Iniesta was right in the center of everything Spain did well. Only Sergio Ramos completed more passes, and at times it seemed the Andres Iniesta show needed better supporting characters. Cesc Fabregas and David Silva kept play ticking over well for Spain, but in a team full of players who can keep the ball, Spain appear in sore need of another difference-maker if they're to keep hold of their title.
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - JUNE 13: Andres Iniesta of Spain and Tomas Rosicky of Czech Republic compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D match between Spain and Czech Republic at Stadium Municipal on June 13, 2016 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
Spain's strength lies in their plethora of immensely technical, possession-based midfielders, but while Fabregas, Silva and Nolito all offer invention and creativity, their similarity can often make Spain predictable as a unit. Iniesta and Silva were Spain's most dangerous options on the ball, opening the Czech defense up on more than one occasion. But without pacy options to stretch defenses outside of lone striker Alvaro Morata, play was often constricted.
Iniesta needs no more than a micrometer of space to operate in though, and he sought it all over the pitch for Spain. Often dropping deep in order to find the ball in front of the Czechs defending in their half, Iniesta conducted traffic just as longtime Barcelona partner in crime Xavi used to for La Roja.
It was Iniesta who found space to create the breakthrough for Spain in the 87th minute, and his country will need him to be at his very best throughout this tournament if they're to have a chance at staying European champions. Iniesta was player of the tournament in 2012 without scoring a goal and recording just one assist. Having equalled that after 90 minutes in France, fans of La Seleccion will hope more is yet to come from the little Barcelona genius.
MORE FROM FOX SOCCER