'I have a special connection with England', admits Alonso

The Spain midfielder revealed his fondness for Roy Hodgson's charges after his time at Liverpool, before concedes that Croatia were always going to be a tough opponent

Spain midfielder Xabi Alsonso has admitted that he has a "special connection with England", after La Roja secured a quarter-final berth and the possibility of facing the Three Lions in the next round.

The holders struggled to over come Croatia, with substitute Jesus Navas tapping in the all-important winner in the 88th minute.

Spain clinched top spot in Group C with the three points, setting up a possible tie against Roy Hodgson's side, and the former Liverpool man revealed his fondness for the country where he spent five years.

"[It could be] England, France or Ukraine [in the quarter-final]," he told Telecinco.

"I have a special connection with England, but we must wait until tomorrow. I hope I have the chance to play my game with Spanish national team. [It was] a great achievement.

Focusing on Monday night's game, the result was cruel on Croatia, who had the better of the chances, with Ivan Rakitic being denied from six yards out after his header was saved at point-blank range by Iker Casillas, and Alonso acknowledged that their opposition were always going to be difficult to overcome.

He added: "Every match is difficult. We knew Croatia were going to be a powerful opponent. We had to suffer, and you must suffer to deliver. It tastes good when it's hard to achieve it [the victory]."

After Italy had gone 2-0 up against Ireland, a win for Croatia would have sent the holders out of the tournament, and the 29-year-old agreed that advancing to the knockout was never a formality.

"We never thought that a tie would be okay. We knew we couldn't afford any risk. [There was] a quiet celebration at the dressing room but we must go on and keep calm," Alonso concluded.