Report from the match as Spain won the Nations League title for the first time in Rotterdam. Dani Carvajal scored the game-winning penalty to deny Luka Modric and Croatia their first championship.
Substitute After extra time had passed without a goal, Dani Carvajal made the game-winning penalty kick with a Panenka to give head coach Luis de la Fuente, who had only been named Luis Enrique’s replacement in December, a trophy-winning start to his reign.
Despite Luka Modric’s best efforts, Croatia, who finished third in Qatar last year and as World Cup finalists in 2018, was unable to score during the 120 minutes of play. In the shootout, substitutes Lovro Majer and Bruno Petkovic also saw their penalties saved by Unai Simon.
It was a terrible result for serial overachievers Croatia, who, four days after their extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the semifinals, once again cruelly fall short of a historic victory.
Despite the loud whistles of the Croatian supporters, who filled the entire arena, Spain got off to a promising start. Alvaro Morata nearly capitalised on a Dominik Livakovic slip-up, and Gavi narrowly missed the goal post.
Aymeric Laporte of Manchester City blocked Andrej Kramaric’s shot after an excellent comeback run as Croatia gained control of the game and began taking advantage of Spain’s high defensive line.
Many of their best plays, as usual, came from the steadfast Modric, who twice crossed for the roving Ivan Perisic to head at goal, forcing Simon to make saves.
At the other end, De la Fuente’s team found it more challenging to break down their compact and well-drilled opponents as a result of Croatia’s direct style.
As the left-back produced beautiful crosses for Morata and Marco Asensio either side of halftime, Jordi Alba appeared to be their best chance to score, but both players headed high.
As extra time went on, Croatia, fatigued from their victory against the Netherlands in overtime just four days earlier, made periodic threats but ultimately fell further behind.
Although Simon was pushed into a save by Marcelo Brozovic and Nacho’s superb last-second block to stop Majer, Spain was generally in control and had more chances to win the match.
In the end, Caravajal was the one who successfully took advantage of Petkovic’s error to start the Spanish party.