Tue, 19 Jun 2012 07:47:20 GMT | By AP

Jesus Navas takes Spain into quarters

Gdansk, Poland: Unconvincing as it was, it was still enough for Spain.

Scratchy Spain wobble into quarters

The defending champions advanced to the quarterfinals of the European Championship on Monday, getting an 88th-minute goal from substitute Jesus Navas in a 1-0 win over Croatia.

Spain dominated possession as expected but failed to create many clear opportunities at the Arena Gdansk. And on the other end, Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas needed to make a pair of clutch saves in the second half to bail out the world champions.

"It was a question of believing in what we are doing,'' said Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta, who flicked a short pass to Navas for the deciding goal.

Spain, which is trying to win its third straight major title, will next face the second-place team in Group D on Saturday in Donetsk, Ukraine. Italy also advanced from Group C after beating Ireland 2-0.

"We made a great step forward. We qualified. That's what motivates us for the quarterfinal. Our philosophy and style of play are good and we proved it in today's match,'' Del Bosque said. "The team played well even though the match didn't go as we planned.''

After wasting a number of late chances, Spain finally broke open the Croatia defense when substitute Cesc Fabregas lobbed a through ball for Iniesta. The Barcelona midfielder then passed to Navas, who put his shot into the roof of the empty net.

"We played to the end and we deserved the win,'' said Navas, who scored his second career goal for Spain.