Photo by Slobodan Kadic
June 18, 2023 – Spain beat Croatia on penalties to win this edition of the UEFA Nations League Sunday at De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam.
After Croatia beat the Netherlands in extra time on Wednesday and Spain beat Italy 2-1 in the second semi-final on Thursday, the two teams met in the UEFA Nations League final on Sunday. Thus, in just five years, Croatia played their second major final, with a historic chance to reach their first gold medal.
The match for third place was played earlier today, and Italy beat the Netherlands 3-2.
Around 25,000 Croatia fans were expected at the stadium, with every batch of extra tickets sold out in minutes. But anyone at De Kuip knows there were more – at a stadium that holds 50,000 fans, Croatia supported filled over two-thirds.
A true Croatia fan atmosphere filled the streets of Rotterdam again, putting to shame the incredible display we already witnessed on Wednesday. Croatian football fans were ready to celebrate the nation’s first gold medal.
Head to Head
When looking at the two teams in the FIFA rankings, Croatia is in 7th place and Spain is in 10th place. According to Transfermarkt, Spain is worth a total of 671 million euros, compared to Croatia’s worth of 352 million euros.
Tonight was the 10th time the two national teams met. In the nine matches played before the final, Spain won 5 times, Croatia 3 times, and they drew once. The last time these national teams met was in the EURO 2020 round of 16 when Spain won 5:3 after extra time.
Croatia: Livaković, Juranović, Šutalo, Erlić, Perišić, Modrić, Brozović, Kovačić, Pašalić, Ivanušec, Kramarić
Spain: Unai Simon, Jesus Navas, Le Normand, Laporte, Jordi Alba, Rodri, Fabian Ruiz, Puno, Gavi, Asensio, Morata
Spain had the first attack which was an easy save for Livakovic. Croatia’s fist chance in the box came from a Juranovic cross in the 5th minute, but is was saved by Simon.
Another potentially dangerous chance for Spain happened in the 8th minute as the ball reached the penalty area. One minute later, Spain almost scored. A loft to Livakovic and shaky fingers by Croatia’s keeper forced the defense to make a quick clearance. Fortunately the play was called offside.
Gavi was left open right outside the box and just missed Croatia’s goal.
In the 10th minute, Croatia fans sang Poljubi Zemlju by Miso Kovac in an effort for Luka to continue playing for national team.
“Ostani tu, tu je tvoja mati
Ostani tu, još će sunce sjati
Ostani tu, snove čuvaj samo za nju
Spain continued to possess and had its first corner in the 19th minute, which was cleared out.
Kramaric had a brilliant chance in the 22nd minute, almost one on one with the keeper and two defenders on his back but shot over the goal. Pasalic had a chance in the next play but it was saved by Simon. Croatia was picking up the intensity, but Spain was solid as always.
Every time Croatia cleared the ball on a Spain attack, a Spanish player was there to win it back. This was no easy team to play against. A Spain corner in the 26th minute was played short and fortunately went out for a Croatia goal kick.
The Spain defense was not easy to get around, with Juranovic especially struggling to run down the wing as usual. They certainly lacked depth, but did well to possess.
Croatia’s shot in the 30th minute was saved by Simon. By this point, the game was 50/50.
Broz was brilliant on the goal line in the 38th minute to dish the ball across the penalty area but no one was there.
Luka brilliantly crossed to Perisic far post in the next play which Perisic headed at Simon.
Spain was dangerous again in the 42nd minute. Albra ran down the left wing and crossed to Morata whose header went just over the goal. Luka fouled Pino about 30 meters from the goal, giving them another dangerous chance to take the lead, but the play ended in a goal kick for Croatia.
The match went to halftime 0-0.
The second half started without any changes for Croatia.
Croatia had a great attack in the 50th minute which found Juranovic for a cross into the box. Simon punched the ball out but Croatia was there to win it back.
Another great chance in the next play but Juranovic’s shot went too wide of far post.
A scary chance for Spain when Alba’s found Asensio who headed just over the goal in the 56th minute.
Another chance for Croatia in the 59th minute but Krama and Luka struggled to get their footing on. In the next play, Perisic crossed to Pasalic far post who headed at the side of the net.
Dalic subbed off Pasalic for Petkovic in the 61st minute.
Spain made subs in the 66th minute. Morata and Pino went off for Fati and Joselu.
Perisic had a chance in the 71st minute but shot too far post.
Livakovic had to make a great save in the 75th minute to keep the game 0-0. And another chance for Spain was shot just wide of the goal.
Dalic subbed on Vlasic for Ivanusec and Spain subbed on Merino for Ruiz and Le Normand for Nacho in the 78th minute.
Gavi was shown a yellow card in the 80th minute. Croatia’s defense had to brilliantly save the ball from going in. Perisic was on the goal line, and it was still scoreless with 5 minutes to go.
Spain subbed on former Dinamo player Dani Olmo for Gavi in the 86th minute. Olmo received applause from Croatia fans when he came on.
Asensio nearly ended Croatia’s hope of a gold medal in the 89th minute as his shot just missed the goal. Four minutes of stoppage time were added. Majer was subbed on for Kramaric. Petkovic was shown a yellow card.
Croatia had a corner kick in the final mintues, but it was easily cleared by the Spain defense. And the ref blew the final whistle, sending the game to extra time. Another extra time for Croatia.
The first dangerous play from Spain came in the 94th minute with a corner kick, but Croatia forced the play back into the midfield. Fernandez was shown a yellow card in the 96th minute. Navas was subbed off for Carvajal the same minute. Rodri was also shown a yellow card the following minute.
Kova brilliantly ran the ball of the pitch and played Majer who was nearly one on one with the keeper. He got tangled with the Spain defense and fell into the penalty area, but it wasn’t enough for a penalty.
Croatia got lucky when Olma shanked ove the goal from a completely open chance in the 104th minute. Two minutes of stoppage time were added.
Broz had a shot on goal to end the first half.
Spain came out strong to start the second half and moved into Croatia’s penalty area. Olmo nailed a rocket towards Croatia’s goal but also missed for a Spain corner kick. And another Spain corner after that.
A brilliant ball from Kova through the defense found Vlasic but he couldn’t get a shot off.
Stanisic was subbed on for Juranovic in the 111th minute.
Rodrigo shot for Spain which deflected out for a corner kick. And then two more corners followed.
A good chance for Croatia in the 118th minute went out for Croatia corner kick, and then another corner after that, but it was saved by Simon. And the game went to penalties.
Vlasic was up first for Croatia to score for 1-0.
Joselu scored for Spain – 1-1.
Brozovic scored for 2-1.
Rodri score for 2-2.
Luka scored for 3-2.
Fernandez scored for 3-3.
Majer’s penalty was saved to keep it 3-3.
Asensio scored for 3-4.
Perisic scored for 4-4.
Laporte missed for 4-4.
Petkovic missed for 4-4.
Carvajal scored for 4-5.
Spain won it.
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