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Spain Beat Croatia 5-4 on Penalties to Win the 2023 UEFA Nations League

Spain Beat Croatia 5-4 on Penalties to Win the 2023 UEFA Nations League

It was Spain’s second consecutive appearance in the UEFA Nations League Final, having lost to France 2-1 last year. In this year’s edition, La Roja and the other semifinalist Croatia held each other to a goalless draw after the full 120 minutes plus added time, meaning the match was to be decided on penalties. The first six penalties had all ended in the back of the net, before both teams missing one spot kick each in the following two rounds, and the sudden death saw Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal punish Bruno Petković for his missed kick to win Spain’s first international trophy since the 2012 UEFA European Championship.

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Spain Could Not Break Down Croatia’s Defence

After defeating Italy in the semifinal, De la Fuente retained all but two starters in the finale, with Marco Asensio and Fabián Ruiz coming in to replace Rodrigo Moreno and Mikel Merino, whereas Croatia, who empathically overcame Netherlands 4-2 in the other semifinal match-up, only made one replacement in the form of Martin Erlić for this match. The entire 120 minutes witnessed La Roja’s dominance in terms of possession and shots, but Kockasti’s impressive defensive wall meant the three-time European champion cannot penetrate to find a goal.

As early as the 12th minute, Barcelona’s midfield prodigy Gavi fired a shot just outside the penalty box and beat Dominik Livaković, only to have the long-ranged effort going wide. The 18-year-old’s missed opportunity was almost capitalised on by his opponent, after Andrej Kramarić broke free from Spain’s high defensive line and ran towards to the Spanish goal. His following effort was met by the challenge of Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte.

It was in the second half where La Roja showed their dominance, and they kept Livaković busy in the remaining of the game. Amongst those chances, Rodri and Ruiz both had long shots that were fired wide, with the latter almost lobbing in the ball into an unguarded net. Then, substitute Ansu Fati received a pass around the penalty spot of the Croatian goal, and his effort was blocked by Ivan Perišić. These many wasted chances summed up Spain’s evening during the normal playtime and extra time, having only managed 2 of their 21 chances on target.

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Defeating the Penalty Specialist

Croatia was the clear favourites in the spotkicks, having been known as the shootout king in major tournaments, while Spain had succumbed to Morocco the last time they had a penalty shootout in the recent 2022 FIFA World Cup. Nikola Vlašić, Joselu, Marcelo Brozović, Rodri, Luka Modrić and Mikel Merino all converted their chances, before Lovro Majer’s effort parried by Unai Simón and Laporte’s shot found the woodwork. The score was tied at 4-4 after 10 spotkicks, and Simón’s heroics were again displayed, saving Petković’s shot and setting up the UEFA Nations League winning penalty for Carvajal to convert.

 

Luis de la Fuente Won Inaugural Final as Spain’s Manager

The 61-year-old from Haro, Spain assumed the role following the departure of Luis Enrique during the aftermath of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The former Spain Olympic head coach had a rocky start to his senior managerial career, when his La Roja side was defeated by Scotland 2-0 in Matchday 2 of the UEFA EURO Qualifiers. Nonetheless, with this all-important victory in the UEFA Nations League Final, he can now look ahead to continue to rebuild the team and revive the glory days of Spanish football.

Spain’s triumph in this year’s UEFA Nations League also meant they have won their fifth major title at international level and became the second ever nation to have bagged the FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championship and UEFA Nations League, following France’s equal brilliance attained last year.

 

Italy Claimed Second Bronze

In the third-place playoff, Italy overcame Netherlands 3-2 to win another bronze medal in the UEFA Nations League. They went 2-0 ahead early in the first half, before Oranje put one back and replacement Federico Chiesa restored gli Azzurri’s lead. Another substitute Georginio Wijnaldum scored Netherlands’ second goal of the evening at the 89th minute, but the team in orange was unable to find the net again in the last few minutes of the game.

Steven Mosier

"Eat, breathe and sleep sports" is the life motto of mine. My professional athlete career ended way earlier than I thought, but the passion remains till the present, which is why I am here writing you all the sports news you crave! Also, I am a huge fan of the Premier League as well the NBA.

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