Spain defeats Croatia in shootout to win UEFA Nations League


Spain defeated Croatia in a thrilling penalty shootout to become the second Nations League champions.

Dani Carvajal of Real Madrid won the shootout with the winning penalty in sudden death after Unai Simon had made two saves.

Dominik Livakovic’s gaffe in the first ten minutes nearly gave Spain the lead. The Croatian number one sent a soft cross from Fabian Ruiz straight into Alvaro Morata’s path at the edge of the penalty area, but he was able to save himself by blocking the Atletico Madrid striker’s subsequent shot before it found the back of the net.

Later, as Spain applied intense pressure, Gavi came just inches short of making it 1-0. The gifted young player grabbed the ball at the ball’s edge and fired a low effort just wide of the left post.

Ivan Perisic’s powerful header from just inside the penalty area forced Unai Simon into a smart save, and Spain relied on a last-ditch challenge from Aymeric Laporte to deny Andrej Kramaric what appeared to be a certain goal after he stormed through on goal. Croatia did manage to create a few openings of their own after that.

In order to give their attack some breadth, the Croatians would start the second half strongly by moving their full-backs much more forward. In the 50th minute, when Perisic chipped the ball to fellow full-back Josip Juranovic at the back post, the tactical change almost paid off. However, the Union Berlin player’s goal-bound volley missed the post.

Spain would be slightly awakened by that chance, and five minutes later they would generate a respectable chance of their own. In the heart of the penalty box, Marco Asensio sprang highest to latch onto a Jordi Alba cross, but he was unable to keep his subsequent headed attempt down.

The next player to make a noteworthy attempt at goal was Rodri, who fired a shot from a full 30 yards out that just missed the target.

Overall, though, Croatia came out on top in the second half thanks to their midfield, which was able to both restrain Spain’s offense and keep their defense on high alert.

Luis De La Fuente’s team started to benefit from Spain’s substitutions in the closing 10 minutes of the match. One of those subs actually ought to have scored the game-winning goal in the 84th minute when he controlled a cut-back from the left flank and side-footed past Livakovic in the Croatia goal, but Perisic was there to clear the threat.

Since Croatia was playing, it was widely anticipated that there wouldn’t be a winning goal in regulation time, necessitating extra time.

When the ball sat up beautifully for Dani Olmo on the edge of the box in the first half of extra time, another substitute would waste another opportunity. The RB Leipzig player’s initial shot on goal ballooned past the net because he was unable to keep it down.

This opportunity led to a wave of Spanish attempts, with Rodri and Olmo each seeing shots from close to the penalty spot brilliantly denied by the tenacious Croatian defense.

When those shots were missed, the game would eventually end in a penalty shootout.

Before Majer’s penalty kick was saved by Unai Simon, Vlasic, Joselu, Brozovic, Rodri, Modric, and Merino would all convert their spot kicks. Following Perisic’s goal, Laporte had the opportunity to give Spain the victory after Asensio capitalized on that missed opportunity by scoring the subsequent penalty for Spain.

Laporte missed. As a substitute, he cannoned his penalty off the crossbar, extending Spain’s wait for the victory.

When Petkovic’s penalty shot was saved by Simon in sudden death, Laporte’s face was spared, and Carvajal went up to score his own penalty to win the Nations League.