Veteran superstar Luca Modrić will be hoping to lead Croatia to their first ever international title as they take on Spain in the final of this year’s UEFA Nations League today in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The Croatians claimed their spot in this showdown at the De Kuip Stadium after a thrilling extra-time win over the Netherlands in Wednesday’s semifinal.
Spain, meanwhile, edged past Italy on Thursday thanks to a late winner from late-blooming striker Joselu, and will be hoping to make amends for their defeat to France in the final of the 2021 edition of this tournament, which is UEFA’s secondary competition.
Below, we’ll outline the best live TV streaming services to use to watch the game live wherever you are in the world. Meanwhile, Spain manager Luis de la Fuente won a trophy in just his fourth game in charge of the senior team, earning his nation its first men’s title since the 2012 Euros, where the team beat Italy 4-0 in the final.
Croatia have finished in third place at the 1998 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, and they were runners-up behind France at the 2018 World Cup. They fell short again, this time in the cruelest fashion.
The game had few clear-cut opportunities in the 120 minutes, with solid defending and sure-handed saves defusing half chances. The best look was an Ansu Fati shot cleared off the line by Ivan Perisic with five minutes left in regulation.
Croatia showed their fantastic capacity to adapt and survive through various phases of play as Spain attacked them in different ways on the wings and through the centre, but nothing was enough from La Roja to get through the defence.
Spain’s back line was opened up on many occasions with Croatia’s deadly strength in depth keeping the physical battle going all game.
But as the clock ticked on, Luis de la Fuente’s men stayed strong and were rewarded with the title after a strong penalty shootout show from the team, ending an 11-year trophy drought.
Why you should back Croatia
The Checkered Ones have one of the world’s best midfields, with captain Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic creating the attacking chances. Modric has 24 international goals and 15 assists in 153 appearances, the most all-time for Croatia. The Real Madrid star is one of the sport’s all-time greats and continues to produce at age 37. Ivan Perisic is tied for second on the nation’s all-time list with 33 goals in 126 matches (third-most), and Andrej Kramaric has scored 24.
Kramaric scored the opener against the Dutch on Wednesday, and Mario Pasalic’s goal looked like it would be the difference before a 97th-minute equalizer. Bruno Petkovic restored the lead early in extra time, and Modric sealed the victory by converting a penalty. Croatia are 7-5-1 since the start of 2022, with the only setback a 3-0 loss to eventual champion Argentina in the World Cup semifinals. They allowed more than one goal just one other time over that span – in Wednesday’s semifinal.
But this also isn’t the first time that Berhalter was hired under dubious circumstances as his brother Jay Berhalter led the process to initially bring him into the USMNT job. That was a decision that did work out and while the team has been led by Anthony Hudson and B.J. Callaghan during Berhalter’s time away, they’ve still kept their winning ways going and even completed the recruitment of dual national striker Folarin Balogun to provide Berhalter with a stronger squad than the one that he already took to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
The Balogun-effect was felt as Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah both took advantage of the space provided by a positionally aware striker but the way that the team took advantage was drilled into them under Berhalter, which Pulisic noted.
While the team needs to perform as well as possible in things like the Copa America, that goes hand in hand with having a striker that is actually scoring goals, or at least impacting the game. While Balogun didn’t open his scoring account against Mexico, he came close and he was still able to impact the game with his hold up play and runs in behind. He’s a different type of striker than someone like Josh Sargent who can be quite physical but that doesn’t mean that defenses don’t have to respect him as Mexico learned.
At times, Berhalter can get in his own way by overcomplicating things, but that’s something that has been happening less as he grows as a manager. If he can let the team go out and play freely, Berhalter is already doing a lot right as he has created a culture where players can express themselves and perform to the best of their potential. That’s not something that’s easy to do, especially with key players like Sergino Dest and Christian Pulisic playing limited minutes for their clubs but it is something hat Berhalter has navigated well.
He has already displayed the credentials to lead this team through one World Cup cycle and barring a disaster, he’ll make it to a second one as well. The difference the second time around is this youthful roster will be entering their prime and will also be battle tested which is why the future is bright despite what may feel like six months wasted. If anything, the performance of Berhalter’s assistants while he was away from the post is another thing to show how impressive his attention to detail is from top to bottom in the role.
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