Unai Simon is ELITE! Spain goalkeeper's superb shoot-out performance seals Nations League final victory over Croatia as Luka Modric is left heartbroken again

  • Goalkeeper makes two crucial stops
  • Spain deliver first trophy for Luis de la Fuente
  • Croatia wait for silverware goes on

TELL ME MORE: Just under two years on from a freewheeling eight-goal encounter that saw La Roja prevail after extra-time in the last-16 at Euro 2020, hopes for a similarly dramatic clash looked misplaced amid a muted first half at Rotterdam's De Kuip. Dominik Livakovic set Croatian nerves fluttering when he nearly gifted Alvaro Morata a tap-in, while Gavi dragged a low effort wide after robbing the opposition defence of possession inside the first quarter-hour, but Spain otherwise struggled for clear-cut chances. Led by Modric's composed command in midfield, Zlatko Dalic's side looked comfortable enough to hold their opponents at bay well past the break, eventually forcing Luis de la Fuente to call upon semi-final hero Joselu, who arrived to replace Alvaro Morata with a quarter of the game left on the clock. Spain subsequently grew in confidence up front, but even that was not enough to prevent extra-time, with Ansu Fati missing the golden opportunity of the game in the closing stages after fluffing his lines from six yards out with a sitter.

Drama unfolded in the 100th minute when Lovro Majer was felled by Nacho in the box, but referee Felix Zwayer felt the latter made enough contact with the ball to negate any claims for a penalty, ultimately ensuring matters went to a shoot-out. In the biggest moment, it was Athletic Club shot-stopper Simon who rose to the occasion twice, first to deny Majer, and then again after Aymeric Laporte fluffed his lines, batting away Bruno Petkovic's effort before Dani Carvajal converted to spark celebration for Spain and desolation for Croatia.

THE MVP: In a match marked out mostly by missed opportunities rather than grandstand plays across the outfield, it was fitting that it was goalkeeper heroics that decided where the title went, with Simon's two saves coming up trumps to win the game.

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THE BIG LOSER: It is yet another near-miss for Croatia, and Modric, who now looks destined to finish his international career without any major silverware. However, the Real man could at least hold his head up high after another colossal performance in the middle of the park. The same could not be said for Majer, who came on right at the end of normal time as Dalic tried to give Modric extra midfield support. Majer squandered a good chance to win the match in extra-time and then handed Spain the initiative with his miss in the shoot-out. A night to forget.



WHAT NEXT? Both teams will return to Euro 2024 qualification in September, as they look to book their place in Germany next year.