La Roja beat Croatia from the penalty spot after 120′ of battle and won the third edition, succeeding Portugal and France
There are those who have already left a tangible mark in the last fifteen years, when they were at the peak of their talent, and those who deserved to be remembered with a trophy for what they have done recently. However, football is often not fair and it is not even this time. After two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup, Spain is also displaying the third edition of the Nations League. An excellent Croatia, which does not lose its merits, yields only on penalties: Petkovic’s fatal mistake, who with his prowess (a goal and a penalty awarded) had dragged Dalic’s national team into the final against the Netherlands, while it is Carvajal the conclusion, complete with a spoon, which is worth the cup. The bitterness remains, in seeing the golden generation of Croatians arrive once again one step away from the finish line and then collapse. It happened at the World Cup in Russia, where he lost in the final, and at the previous ones, where he finished on the lowest step of the podium. An always honorable journey, but it is always someone else who celebrates.
Both coaches generally confirm the match plan for the semifinals. Spain change two men compared to the success against Italy, with Fabian Ruiz replacing Merino and Asensio for Rodrigo; only one novelty for Croatia, which fields Erlic for Vida, confirming Perisic as a low winger. The Providence men from the previous round, Joselu and Petkovic, start from the bench. Even the interpretation remains substantially the same: De La Fuente’s national team immediately raises the pressure on the first opponent construction and it is no coincidence that the first chances come from two mistakes by the Croatian defence. In the 9th minute Livakovic is approximate in catching Ruiz’s cross, the ball caroms into the post then Morata intervenes but is offside. Shortly afterwards Erlic is not attentive to his goalkeeper’s pass, Gavi collects on the edge crossing too much with his right foot which ends by a whisker wide (12′). Dalic’s formation gains space as the minutes go by, taking advantage of the density of the midfield with Modric who punctually moves to the side where the action develops. However, the greatest dangers originate from the airways. Laporte stands out in an excellent recovery on Kramaric, launched directly from the defense. After half an hour instead it is Perisic, in constant offensive projection, who calls Simon into question with a couple of headers: the first is blocked in two stages, the second is less insidious.
No news on returning from the changing rooms, even for what can be seen on the pitch. A lively Perisic breaks through to the left and crosses at the far post, Juranovic controls but from a good position he closes the shot too much and misses the goal (51′). The Spanish response comes with Asensio’s detachment and Rodri’s bolide from distance, both off target. After the hour of play, Dalic and De La Fuente have the same idea: on the one hand Petkovic enters with Croatia who switches to two center forwards, on the other Morata and Pino give way to Joselu and Ansu Fati keeping the trident . In the 75th minute Livakovic courageously comes out to anticipate the Barcelona full-back, Ruiz tries to surprise him with a lob that doesn’t go far from the top corner. In the 84th minute Spain had the ball that could be worth the Nations League: Merino fished Fati in the area, his shot from close range was destined for the corner but an omnipresent Perisic was there waiting for him on the line and removed the threat. The tie holds and extra time becomes necessary. The teams are considerably tired, but Spain can rely on the rather high quality of the substitutes as well. The only situation worthy of mention is Dani Olmo’s turn in the 108th minute, providentially deflected by Sutalo in the center of the area.
Croatia has the burden of starting the series. Vlasic is not wrong, Joselu is perfect. The transformations of Brozovic, Rodri, Modric and Merino are also impeccable. After six impeccable penalties, Majer’s mistake arrives: a central and half-height shot, which Simon manages to block with his feet. Asensio carries Spain forward, Perisic keeps hope alive and it is a fundamental realization, because Laporte sends the match point against the crossbar. However, Simon is in a day of grace, he also parries Petkovic’s conclusion and Carvajal gives the trophy to him with the spoon.
June 18, 2023 (change June 19, 2023 | 00:01)
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