Midfielder Rodri played a crucial role for Spain as they secured a 2-1 win over Italy, earning a place in the UEFA Nations League final against Luka Modric’s Croatia. In the 88th minute, Rodri’s shot deflected and fell to substitute Joselu, who scored the winning goal from close range just before extra time. This will be Spain’s second appearance in the UEFA Nations League final, having reached the same stage in 2021 but ultimately losing to France.
Read More: Modric converts penalty as Croatia clinch 4-2 win against Netherlands in UEFA Nations League
The victory is a significant turnaround for Spain coach Luis de la Fuente, who took over the team after the World Cup. He faced pressure after a narrow win against Norway and a loss to Scotland in his first two matches in charge.
Spain took an early lead in the third minute of the UEFA Nations League semis when Yeremy Pino dispossessed Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci and finished to score his second international goal. However, Italy quickly equalised through Ciro Immobile’s penalty after Robin Le Normand was penalised for a handball following Nicolo Zaniolo’s powerful shot.
Read More: Cagliari earn promotion back to Serie A after Pavoletti’s injury time strike against Bari
In the final, Spain will face Croatia in Rotterdam, while Italy will compete against the Netherlands for third place in Enschede.
Although Davide Frattesi momentarily thought he had given Italy the lead, his goal was disallowed for offside as he received a long pass from Jorginho and scored through the legs of Unai Simón.
Read More: Chhetri scores as India beat Vanuatu 1-0 to book final berth in 2023 Intercontinental Cup
The atmosphere at FC Twente Stadium was relatively quiet compared to the enthusiastic Croatian supporters who celebrated their team’s victory over the Netherlands. However, Spanish fans repeatedly encouraged Rodri to shoot, and their wishes were granted when his effort contributed to the winning goal.
While Luka Modric excelled for Croatia, his contemporary Bonucci was unable to make up for his early mistake and was substituted at halftime.
Italy struggled defensively in the second half without Bonucci, and Spain came close to taking the lead on two occasions. Donnarumma made a good save to deny Mikel Merino’s shot in the 49th minute, and Alvaro Morata narrowly missed the target with the rebound. Rodri’s acrobatic effort three minutes later sailed over the crossbar after Donnarumma weakly punched away a free kick from Jordi Alba.
Italy also had their chances, with Unai Simon making a reflex save to deny Davide Frattesi a goal in the 65th minute. Italy coach Roberto Mancini had previously expressed concern about the lack of world-class forwards in this team.