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Don Simon::

Don Simon::

This isn’t a sponsored column, not least because the days of the Sangria Don Simon, which was on sale in supermarkets close to the nightlife districts, are long gone, but the Spanish hero is the drink’s name. Unai Simon, the goalkeeper of Athletic, the champion of the Nations League final, was won by the Spanish national team for the first time, when he saved two penalties after 0-0 for 120 minutes.

Once again, this Croatian generation is making a final and remaining trophyless at a senior level. The Spanish team will, after some disappointments, spend the rest of the night drinking sangria, perhaps more refined than a bottle of Don Simon’s red.

Fight for the ball and chances

Croatia and Spain are, at this point, two teams in the process of renewal, but with different processes, in football and in the way this revolution is being implemented.

In this final we still saw some 30-year-olds on great form – Jordi Alba and Perisic put in a great game – but you can’t say it was a good final as such.

Both teams fought for possession and took turns in periods of better control. Great Croatian objectivity bore more fruit around the Unaj Simon area, not least because the defenders were unable to respond to the Croatian attackers’ constant crosses at the back post.

Perisic avoided the Spanish goal near the 90th minute. @ Getty /

Despite the more Croatian involvement in the danger zones, the Spanish side, threatening first through Morata and Gavi, managed to impose their game from the 60th minute onwards and almost sealed the game in normal time.

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Mikel Merino and Ansu Fati got off to a good start and the two built the Spanish team’s most dangerous game for 90 minutes. At the head of the goal line, Perisic avoided 1-0 and kept up the tradition: when there is a match to be eliminated, Croatia takes extra time.

Think about the risks in detail

While there was energy in their midfield trio, the Croatian side managed to send some shivers to the Spanish side, who were already on the defensive, first due to an injury to Lou Normand and then due to the complaints of Jesús Navas. Nacho, who just joined, wasn’t treated well either, but he couldn’t be the forgotten hero of this final.

Accustomed to a secondary role throughout his football career, the Real Madrid defender also had a decisive role in this match, as he cleared the goal from Lovro Mager, who was cleverly isolated by Kovacic.

Nacho made a decisive cut early in extra time @ Getty /

Moreover, this was the Croat’s last breath. Since then, Dalic’s side have come close to the Spanish box again only to extra time, with two harmless corners to the ever-safe Unai Simon. Spain, on the other hand, threatened and Rodri once again risked champion status, with a shot from outside the area that frightened Levakovic.

The Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper emerged in the World Cup by being the Croatian penalty shootout champion, but this time the hero was named Sangria.

Unai Mager and Petkovic saved, Carvajal took the decisive penalty kick and the Spanish team won the title again, 11 years after Euro 2012. Open that bottle of Don Simon (and it may not be Modric’s last game with the Croatian national team)!

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