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  • Posted by Rayo Online
  • Date : 19 Jun 2023
  • Time : 12:30PM

Match report as Spain are crowned Nations League champions for the first time in Rotterdam; Dani Carvajal converted the winning penalty to deny Luka Modric and Croatia their first trophy; game finished goalless after 120 minutes.Spain beat Croatia 5-4 on penalties to clinch Nations League glory as they celebrated their first trophy win since Euro 2012.

Substitute Dani Carvajal converted the winning spot-kick with a Panenka after the game had finished goalless after extra-time, giving head coach Luis de la Fuente, only appointed Luis Enrique's successor in December, a trophy-winning start to his tenure.

Croatia, World Cup finalists in 2018 and third-placed finishers in Qatar last year, were hoping to lift their first trophy but could not find a way to goal across the 120 minutes despite the best efforts of Luka Modric, with substitutes Lovro Majer and Bruno Petkovic then seeing their penalties saved by Unai Simon in the shootout.

It was a heartbreaking outcome for serial overachievers Croatia, who, four days on from their extra-time win over the Netherlands in the semis, once again fall painfully short of a historic triumph.

Player ratings
Croatia: Livakovic (7), Juranovic (7), Sutalo (7), Erlic (7), Perisic (8), Brozovic (8), Modric (8), Kovacic (8), Pasalic (6), Ivanusec (6), Kramaric (6).

Subs: Petkovic (7), Vlasic (7), Majer (6), Stanisic (6).

Spain: Simon (8), Navas (6), Le Normand (7), Laporte (8), Alba (7), Rodri (7), Fabian Ruiz (7), Gavi (6), Asensio (7), Pino (6), Morata (5).

Subs: Ansu Fati (7), Joselu (6), Merino (7), Nacho (7), Olmo (7), Caravajal (7).

How Spain triumphed in epic final
Spain started promisingly despite the whistles of the Croatia fans who dominated the arena, both in number and sound, with Alvaro Morata almost pouncing on a spill by Dominik Livakovic and Gavi shooting just past the post.But Croatia grew into the game and soon they were exploiting Spain's high defensive line, with Andrej Kramaric bursting through on goal, only to have his shot blocked by Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte following an outstanding recovery run.

As always, many of their best moments came through the evergreen Modric, who twice crossed for the marauding Ivan Perisic to head at goal, forcing saves from Simon on each occasion.

Croatia's direct approach was causing problems for Spain and, up at the other end, De la Fuente's side found it more difficult to break their compact and well-drilled opponents down.

Jordi Alba looked their most likely route to goal, the left-back producing fine crosses for Morata and Marco Asensio either side of half-time, but both players headed over.

Perisic created half-chances for Josip Juranovic and Mario Pasalic, but the tempo slowed as the second half wore on and soon Spain were looking the more likely victors.

Rodri sent a vicious long-range effort narrowly wide, but the best opportunity fell to Ansu Fati, whose low effort, from fellow substitute Mikel Merino's cut-back, was hacked off the line by Perisic.Croatia, fatiguing after their extra-time win over the Netherlands only four days earlier, still threatened sporadically but sank further and further back over the course of extra-time.

Nacho made a brilliant last-ditch tackle to deny Majer and Marcelo Brozovic forced a save from Simon, but otherwise, Spain were on the front foot and created more opportunities to win it.

They did not take them, with Dani Olmo firing wide when he should have netted, but held their nerve in the shootout, even after Laporte missed an earlier chance to win it when he slammed his effort against the bar.In the end, it was left to Caravajal, who capitalised on Petkovic's miss in style to spark Spanish celebrations.

Dani Carvajal said: "Very happy for us. It was a unique opportunity. We were knocked out early in other championships and today we had to take advantage of it.

"We had confidence in the penalties and it turned out well.

"I knew how to shoot it. I knew I would be the sixth [taker]. I gave a talk motivating in the huddle and I got emotional. I wanted to do it like Panenka and it turned out well".

Rodri said: "We are very happy. It has been a very difficult game and it took a lot from us.

"This generation promises a lot. We have been very strong mentally. There are things to improve, but we always win well. We must celebrate it."