Fri. May 24th, 2024

It took 120 minutes and penalties for Spain to be crowned UEFA Nations League champions for 2023, beating Croatia 6-5 on penalties after two goalless hours of football in the Netherlands.

In the end, it was Lovro Majer and Bruno Petkovicwho missed, having their shots saved well by Unai Simon. Aymeric Laporte then missed the chance to win it for Spain, sending the shootout beyond the regulation five and Dani Carvajal proved to be the hero.

Neither team impressed in the first 45 minutes, when they struggled to create quality chances in the final third. A Gavi effort from the edge of the box went just wide 12 minutes in and Unai Simon denied Ivan Perisic after the half an hour mark.

Not much changed in the opening stages of the second half, with Croatia and Spain pushing for an opener but lacking a final pass.

Both teams freshened up their attacks in search of a spark around the hour mark, with Spain coach Luis de la Fuente sending on Ansu Fati and Joselu to replace Yeremy Pino and Alvaro Morata, respectively.

Yet, Croatia defended well and prevented Spain from creating danger in front of their goal. In fact, La Roja’s first shot on target came in the 84th minute, with Fati failing to send the ball into the back of the net, as his strike from inside the box was cleared off the line by Perisic.

Neither team managed to break the deadlock in 90 minutes and the game went to extra time. The additional 30 minutes did little to split the two and so penalties were required.

The quality of penalties was very high until Unai Simon did well to save Lovro Majer, and Marco Asensio then converted to give La Roja the edge after four penalties each. Ivan Perisic scored, and Aymeric Laporte had the chance to win it for Spain but missed, only for Simon to make another save right after from Bruno Petkovic. Dani Carvajal stepped up and won it for Spain.