Spain wins the Nations League on penalties against Croatia

by Lorraine Williamson
Spain - UEFA Nations League 2023 winners

MADRID – Spain has conquered the title in the Nations League after an intense battle against Croatia that ended in a penalty shootout. Much praise goes to national coach Luis de la Fuente, who only took over the leadership of the team four games ago. 

Spain achieved its fifth title in the country’s history, their first since 2012 when they won the third Euro Cup. The Spanish team first had to deal with Italy in the semi-final of the Nations League before facing combative Croatia, led by Luka Modric, to take the cup home in the final. Founded by UEFA in 2018, this tournament was the only prize missing from Spain’s honours list. 

Decisive penalty shootout 

The match against Croatia remained goalless even after extra time despite both sides playing like ever minute counted. Consequently, it went down to penalties to decide the winner. Jordi Alba won the first toss for Spain, and opted for the “Spain end”. Modric won the second toss and chose for Croatia to shoot first.

First up was Vlasic who sent the ball to the right and into the net. Croatia 1-0 Spain. Then, the man who put Spain in the final, Joselu stepped up, and made all square as he slammed the ball into the roof of the net. Brozovic put Croatia into the lead again, but then Rodri equalised with almost the same shot as Brozovic. Modric scored the 3rd for Croatia with ease, then came Morino who sent Livakovic the wrong way. Over half way through the penalty shoot out, and it was 3-3. Then it was the turn of Majer, but the Spanish goalkeeper managed to save the shot with his feet. At this point, Spain had the advantage, and when Asensio scored, it put Spain in the lead. It was 3-4. But when Perisic scored for Croatia, all the pressure was on Laporte to score. Laporte took the spot, and aimed high at goal, but it hit the crossbar hard and missed. Suddenly Croatia were back in with a chance, and the penalites went to sudden death.

Spain´s Unai Simon managed to save Petkovic´s attempt at goal which meant, Spain only needed to score to win. The pressure was then on Carvajal. However, he did not disappoint. He calmly scored the winning penalty. Both sides were outstanding, but Spain had the edge, and deserved the 4-5 win in the end to lift the trophy.

De la Fuente’s successful tactics 

De la Fuente, who was under pressure before the tournament, made the right choices during the games against Italy and Croatia. He started the final with lineup changes, giving players such as Navas, Fabián and Marco Asensio a chance. 

The first half was fairly quiet, with few chances for either team. In the second half, De la Fuente brought in Ansu Fati and Joselu, followed by the excited Dani Olmo. These changes worked out well for the coach, and Spain came close to victory thanks to a great chance from Barcelona striker Fati. 

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Also see: Substitute shoots Spain to the Nations League final 

Simón, who was previously criticized for his performance in the penalty shootout against Morocco in the last World Cup, this time saved Croatia’s last two penalties, one with his feet and one with a good save. Brave and determined, Carvajal provided the winning moment by taking the decisive penalty with a Panenka penalty. Laporte’s shot hit the crossbar, but it was Carvajal who claimed Spain’s moment of glory and gave De la Fuente’s side the title. 

An important victory for Spain 

Victory in the Nations League is an important milestone for Spain. The team has shown that they are capable of performing at the highest level, even under the guidance of a relatively new national coach. Luis de la Fuente, with just four games under his belt at the helm of the team, has dispelled doubts and returned Spain to the top of international football. 

The future looks bright for Spain 

With this victory and the emergence of young talents such as Ansu Fati and Gavi, the future looks bright for Spanish football. The team’s performance in the Nations League has boosted confidence in the squad and shows that Spain is once again a serious competitor on the international scene. 

The Spanish people celebrate 

After winning the title in the Nations League, there is a euphoric atmosphere in Spain. Fans celebrate their national team’s victory and pay tribute to national coach Luis de la Fuente and goalkeeper Unai Simón, who have both played a vital role in Spain’s success. 

The Nations League title is a recognition of the hard work and determination of Spain’s players and staff and a reason for the whole country to be proud of their national team. 

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