What a pity Modric! The Croats went to their first trophy and gave Spain the penalty shootout
Anatoly Romanov Jun 19, 2023 01:02 UTC Audio version: Your browser does not support the audio element.
There were no goals in the Nations League final. Everything was decided by the 11 meters.
The Spanish team is the winner of the League of Nations. The Red Fury won this trophy for the first time. In previous years, Nations League gold went to Portugal and France.
One might expect a great goalscoring spectacle from the Croatia-Spain final, as 19(!) goals have been scored in the last three matches between these rivals. However, the pressure of the result was still reflected in the play of the teams led by Zlatko Dalic and Luis de la Fuente. The football itself was interesting, quite spectacular, with good intensity and fast ball movement. However, there were not enough real scoring chances. The Croats and the Spanish fought for the initiative, but they did not risk themselves and did not reveal themselves excessively. The main idea was to keep it compact.
At the beginning, the Croatian team had more possession of the ball, but the Spaniards were closer to the goal. Moreover, the “ladies” themselves “brought”. Livakovych caught the ball like a bar of soap: it bounced off the goalkeeper’s hands and into the post. Kovacic allowed a turnover near his own box under pressure from Gavi, with the Barcelona midfielder narrowly missing a corner. Overall, Gavi helped centre-forward Morata put pressure on the centre-backs and the Croatian defensive midfielder, rising to the position of second striker during defence. However, in the first 45 minutes, the Red Fury did not hit a single shot on goal.
The future of the coach of the Spanish team depended on his performance in the League of Nations:
“Inadequate methods and training.” Will the Spain coach be fired six months after his appointment?
The Croats met the Spanish further up. They beat more accurately. Two of his three shots hit the mark. The “drafts” looked for Kramaric with shots behind the center backs, they tried to take advantage of the growth and power of their full-backs. However, there was nothing terrible for goalkeeper Simon. In such a game, a goal could be born not because someone beat someone as a team, but thanks to the episode won. But in the first half, the fans who gathered at the Rotterdam stadium did not see any goals: Croatia and Spain went into the break with a unique score of 0-0 for this couple.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Croats were reminded that they have a more well-played team that better understands how to interact and move the ball. The collective selection in their performance also paid off. The Drafts dominated and almost scored as “rebuilt” defenseman Perisic beat “redesigned” defenseman Navas on the wing and created a huge moment for Juranovic. The Spanish were lucky not to miss. De la Fuente’s men diverted the game away from their goal, not without difficulty, responding with a dangerous header from Asensio.
After that, the match took place positionally with a modicum of sharpness. There weren’t even shots on goal. The coaches remembered the substitutes, and two forward heroes of the semifinals appeared on the field – the Croatian Petkovic and the Spaniard Joselu. For Morata, who has gone to the bench, this is definitely not the best game of his career: only 14 touches of the ball (the fewest players of the starting eleven for both teams), only 38% accurate passes, two hits (one imprecise, one locked) and 0 key passes. Spain’s first striker finished the Nations League Final Four goalless.
Only in the 84th minute did De la Fuente’s team hit the goal for the first time, but what a blow it was! Fati fired from an ideal position, from where another day he would have scored 10 for 10. Spain finally pulled off a combination in the Croatian box, and Red Fury substitutes Merino and Fati built a 99 per cent chance. But the Barcelona striker did not perform as expected, and the ball was stopped on the goal line by the most reliable defender Perisic. The Croats usually sat out at the end of regulation, freeing the initiative from their hands.
How was the match for third place in the League of Nations:
Italy and the Netherlands put on a brilliant show with five goals. Mancini corrected his mistake
Extra time and penalty shootouts are the favorite pastime of the Croatian national team. Even Modric, at 37 years old, endures two hours on the field, the only health of a person. So, in this tournament, the “ladies” were not enough 90 minutes in the semifinal and final. But it was still felt that the Spanish were younger, fresher. They had the ball and the territory. However, in the 100th minute, Dalic’s team organized a counter-attack, and only Nacho’s coolness prevented Mayer from scoring after one-on-ones.
The ‘Red Fury’ could bring victory to Olmo, whose professional career is more linked to Croatia than to Spain. That would be the irony of fate. But Olmo did not score either, so he still reached 11, before which the rivals suddenly had a skirmish. And in the penalty shootout, Simon made two fantastic saves after shots from Mayer (he kicked the ball back!) and Petkovic. The goalkeeper became the great protagonist of the final. And the new coach of La Fuente, who was in the crosshairs, only needed four games in charge of the Spanish team to win the trophy.