Fernando Torres has warned Spain’s opponents that they will only get better as the tournament progresses, saying he believes the reigning champions haven’t quite been up to scratch so far.

Spain topped a tough-looking Group C ahead of Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland to set up a quarter-final showdown with Group D runners-up France.

La Roja have has an indifferent start to the defence of the crown they claimed four years ago in Vienna, and only confirmed their place as group winners with a nervy 1-0 win over Croatia on Monday.

Despite their shaky start Spain are now unbeaten in their last 17 competitive matches, and Torres believes they will move up a gear for the knockout stages.

“There is room to improve,” he said. “We have not played at the level that Spain can reach and we have to try to be better.”

Spain struggled to break down Croatia in their final group game earlier this week, and were almost caught on the counter, only for Iker Casillas to save brilliantly from the unmarked Ivan Rakitic, which would at that point have dumped them out of the competition.

Torres admits playing against teams that are difficult to break down is becoming a recurring problem for Spain, but the striker says he has respect for the way Slaven Bilic’s side went about their business.

He said: “It’s a way of playing. It’s maybe not one that would suit every side; but it is a way of trying to win. It was a very intelligent approach from Croatia.

“Their central midfielders played very deep, denying us space to play the final ball. Their plan was to remain compact and then try to play on the counter-attack as much as possible.”

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