Dani Carvajal scored the decisive spot-kick to edge past Croatia 5-4 in a penalty shootout to clinch the UEFA Nations League title in Rotterdam on Sunday. Spain won their first title in more than a decade. Earlier, Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon did a brilliant job to deny Lovro Mayer and Bruno Petkovic from the spot. The 31-year-old Carvajal, who has won five Champions League titles with Real Madrid, cheekily chipped home Spain’s sixth kick of the shoot-out to earn La Roja their first trophy since the 2012 European Championship.
A tense final at the Feyenoord Stadium ended goalless after extra time, and defeat on penalties was further heartbreak for the Croatia fans as their team who were runners-up at the 2018 World Cup and third in Qatar last year, are yet to win a title. Zlatko Dalic’s men and Croatian fans were hoping Nations League success would cap a glittering international career for their captain Luka Modric.
Winning the Nations League title is a confidence boost for new Spain coach Luis de la Fuente after he faced heavy criticism in March as his men experienced a shocking defeat to Scotland in Euro 2024 qualifiers. The win also avenged Spain’s 2021 summit clash loss to France. This success will come as a big uplift for Spain as they had a disappointing World Cup in Qatar, losing to Morocco in the round of 16.
Spain keeper Simon first saved from Mayer in the shootout, giving Aymeric Laporte an excellent chance to win the battle, but the 29-year-old defender blasted his effort against the crossbar to leave it 4-4 after five kicks each. But Simon came up better again with another outstanding save, and this time from Petkovic, before Carvajal wrapped up victory. It was a very tight match, we knew we weren’t going to win easily, said Simon.
Spain should have opened the scoring in the 12th minute after stealing possession away from Croatia but teenage midfielder Gavi dragged his shot wide. A long ball from deep in Croatia’s half caught out Spain’s high defensive line and allowed Kramaric a breakaway chance in the 23rd minute but Laporte chased back to make a superb tackle.
In the second half, Croatia’s Ivan Perisic made headway down the left flank and provided an inviting cross that Mario Pasalic missed before Josip Juranovic producing a wild effort well wide of goal. Spain finished the two-hour contest strongly as Olmo had another chance and Rodri saw his shot deflected narrowly wide.