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UEFA Nations League

Spain’s route to UEFA Nations League 2023 final

Published at :June 18, 2023 at 9:27 PM
Modified at :June 18, 2023 at 9:27 PM
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Rajat Chhajta


They last won a major championship in 2012

Spain left it late to beat Italy and reached the UEFA Nations League 2023 final. They will now face Croatia and hope to go one better than in 2021 when they lost 2-1 to France in the final. Now that they have reached the finals, these two nations have certainly been involved in some entertaining contests over the years. Their first competitive meeting came at UEFA EURO 2012, with Spain winning the Group C game 1-0 thanks to a late Jesús Navas goal.

Croatia got revenge four years later at EURO 2016 by triumphing 2-1 in Group D. Spain incredibly beat them 6-0 with a scintillating performance in the Nations League in 2018, but then lost 3-2 to the same opponents two months later. But their most recent meeting was perhaps the most memorable, with the Spanish winning an extraordinary match 5-3 at EURO 2020 after extra time. Mario Pašalić struck in injury time to level the scores at 3-3, but extra-time goals from Álvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal eventually saw Spain come out on top. If history is anything to go by, goals should be guaranteed in this final.

Spain fared less well in the World Cup, suffering a surprise shootout defeat to Morocco in the last 16. This is a bit of an unknown, as Luis de la Fuente only replaced Luis Enrique after early World Cup exit in December. His approach is perhaps more pragmatic than his predecessor's "everyone defends, everyone attacks" philosophy, playing to individual strengths. His 2019 U21 EURO winning team played a 4-2-3-1; his 2020 Olympics side was more of a 4-3-3.

Despite just being the Young Player of the Tournament at UEFA EURO 2020, Pedri has become a mainstay for club and country. His influence is growing, and he is often the key to Spain's attacking threat, having added goalscoring to his game of late. Spain are set to count on new captain Alvaro Morata to lead his their attack. With veteran Jesus Navas looking to repeat his role as right back over Dani Carvajal. Luis De la Fuente's Spain side will seek to make up for the disappointment of the 2021 Nations League final loss against France. Winning the final would give La Roja their first trophy since the 2012 Euro.

Group Stage

Win: 3; Draw: 2; Lost: 1

Spain 1 – 1 Portugal

The points were shared after a 1-1 draw against Portugal. Morata gave the hosts the lead in the first half, slotting in after a quick break. Portugal pushed for an equaliser in the second half and eventually got one in the 82nd minute through the substitute Horta, who was in the right place to volley Cancelo's cross over Simon. Alba had a glorious chance to win it for Spain late on as Costa pushed the ball right to him, but the defender thumped his header just wide.

Czech Republic 2 – 2 Spain

Inigo Martinez rescued Spain in the dying minutes against the Czech Republic. The home team surprised the Spaniards by going ahead on a swift counter. J. Pesek scored in the fourth minute. Gavi equalised in the last minute of the first half. The second half was a similar experience, where in 66 minutes J. Kuchta put them ahead and almost held them to a surprise defeat before the 90th-minute equaliser.

Spain 2 – 0 Czech Republic

It was a comfortable win for Spain over the Czech Republic. Spain enjoyed a 76 per cent share of possession in this game and controlled it for the majority. Nevertheless, the visitors were the closest to breaking the deadlock early on, when Kuchta and Cerny both went close. But eventually, Spain's control paid off: Asensio found Soler inside the box, and the midfielder finished calmly.

The hosts dominated the second half and sealed the game with 15 minutes to go. Torres sent in a low cross, with Sarabia applying a simple finish at the back post to ensure his would take a 2-0 win.

Switzerland 0 – 1 Spain

Pablo Sarabia’s 13th-minute strike was enough to get the three points, and the Spanish team moved to second in Group A2. Portugal were also trying to catch up with them in the race to the top. While they dominated the match in possession and passes, they were unable to match the intensity of the Spanish team.

Spain 1 – 2 Switzerland

Akanji and Embolo were the stars for the Swiss side, as not only on the scoreline but in terms of passes, the Spanish team outperformed in terms of play. Spain could not turn their dominant possession and passing statistics into a win as Switzerland took all three points from La Romareda after a 2-1 victory. Akanji’s opener from a corner in the first half was negated by a lovely Alba strike 10 minutes after the restart. A mad three minutes would ensue, ending in the winning goal, turned past Simon by Garcia following another dangerous Vargas set-piece. Luis Enrique’s side found it easy to get the ball into the opponent’s half, but despite a host of attacking substitutions, they were unable to display clinical finishing as Sommer was equal to every effort.

Portugal 0 – 1 Spain

Alvaro Morata scored in the 88th minute against the Portuguese team. The striker took matters into their own hands, as the winner of the match was guaranteed a spot in the UEFA Nations League Finals. Spain were not at their best, especially in the first half, but they went full-on attack in the final minutes of the game, and Morata only needed one chance to hammer home the goal.

Semifinals

Spain 2 – 1 Italy

Joselu comes off the bench to score a late winner, which sends his side into the Nations League final after a 2-1 win over Italy. The scoring started just three minutes in when Pino dispossessed Bonucci to curl a shot into the bottom corner. Immobile equalised shortly after from the spot following Le Normand's handball. Frattesi then thought he'd turned things around with his first Italy goal, but it was ruled out for offside. In the 88th minute, Joselu latched onto Rodri's blocked shot to turn it past Donnarumma and snatch a late victory for Spain.

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