Spain emerged victorious in a thrilling Nations League final against Croatia, denying Croatia their first international trophy. The match, held in Rotterdam, ended in a goalless draw after extra time, leading to a tense penalty shootout.
The decisive moment came when Spain’s Dani Carvajal calmly chipped in the winning penalty, securing a 5-4 victory on spot-kicks. Earlier, Spain’s goalkeeper Unai Simon had made a crucial save from Bruno Petkovic to keep Spain’s hopes alive.
This triumph marks Spain’s first international trophy in 11 years since their memorable victory at Euro 2012. Rodri, the Spanish midfielder, was named the man of the match. This trophy adds to his recent accomplishments, having won the Treble with Manchester City and scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final.
Rodri expressed his happiness after the game, emphasizing the mental strength of the team. He believes that this victory could mark the beginning of a new era of Spanish success, with the squad featuring talented young players such as Gavi, Ansu Fati, and Yeremy Pino.
Spain’s win also grants them the distinction of being the second nation to have won the World Cup, European Championship, and Nations League, following in the footsteps of France, who defeated Spain in the 2021 Nations League final.
Although Spain had the chance to seal the shootout earlier, Aymeric Laporte’s fifth penalty struck the crossbar after Unai Simon had saved from Lovro Majer. Nonetheless, Spain’s triumph will be celebrated, while also acknowledging areas for improvement as they continue their pursuit of excellence.
However, the subsequent effort from Petkovic was no match for Simon’s save, solidifying Carvajal as the hero of the moment.
“This was a unique opportunity for us. After our early exit in another tournament, we had to make the most of this chance,” expressed Carvajal, the Real Madrid defender, in an interview with Spanish broadcaster TVE.
Carvajal’s reference was to the 2022 World Cup, where Spain suffered an unexpected elimination in the round of 16 against Morocco. The match was decided by a penalty shootout in which Spain failed to convert a single penalty.
Adding further, Carvajal shared, “We had confidence in our penalty-taking abilities, and it worked out. I had a clear plan in mind for my shot, and I knew I would be the sixth one to take it. I wanted to execute it with a ‘Panenka’ style, and it turned out to be successful.”