In a thrilling climax to the UEFA Nations League final, Spain emerged victorious against Croatia, led by Luka Modrić, in a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out. The decisive moment came when Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal, with a cool head and a confident heart, executed a flawless Panenka, securing Spain’s triumph.
This victory came after an intense 120-minute standoff that ended goalless, a first in the history of the Nations League final four ties since its inception in 2018.
Spain’s coach, Luis de la Fuente, made a bold move by starting with only one Real Madrid player, Marco Asensio, who is rumored to be on his way out.
Asensio, known for his electrifying form, was a constant threat throughout the match, despite failing to find the net. His best chance came in the dying moments of the game, but his last-gasp effort sailed over the bar, leaving the scoreline untouched.
Real Madrid’s Influence
Real Madrid’s influence was felt strongly from the bench, with Nacho Fernández and Dani Carvajal stepping in to replace Ruben Le Normand and the injured Jesús Navas, respectively. Carvajal’s limited minutes on the field proved crucial as he stepped up to deliver the decisive penalty in the shoot-out.
On the other side, Croatia, led by the indefatigable Luka Modrić, put up a valiant fight. Modrić, despite his age, was one of the standout performers, creating opportunities and winning fouls. However, his efforts were not enough to secure a win for Croatia, leaving him still in search of his first trophy with the national team.
The Goalless Draw
The match, despite boasting a total of 33 shots, was far from a goal fest. The average xG per shot was a mere 0.07, with nearly half of the attempts coming from outside the box.
The first half saw Croatia creating better chances, but Spain bounced back in the second half, with Ansu Fati missing a golden opportunity.
The Penalty Shoot-out
As the match went into penalties, the pressure was palpable. Lovro Majer’s shot was saved by Spain’s goalkeeper, Unai Simón, only for Aymeric Laporte to miss what could have been the winning shot. However, fortune favored Spain when Bruno Petković missed his penalty, setting the stage for Carvajal’s decisive shot.
Carvajal’s Panenka, his first-ever penalty and first score for Spain, sealed the deal for the Spanish team. This victory marks Spain’s first UEFA Nations League title, a redemption from their defeat to France in the previous year’s final, and their first international trophy since the European Championship in 2012. This triumph is a testament to Spain’s resilience and a beacon of hope for their future endeavors.