Jordi Alba wins the first toss and chooses the Spanish end; I think Modric wins the second one, so he will probably choose Croatia to go first.
We cut to the studio just as a kind of rumbling between the teams is sprouting. We can’t really see what or why, but our FOMO is saved when it is quickly neutralized.
I like to think we’re here to share love, so while we wait for the players to be sorted, here’s my tune from 2023 so far.
It’s punishment! We have earned it.
119 min At which point:
117 min Asensio to Carvajal, who picks a nice return pass into the box, down its left; Asensiao crosses and Perisic blocks afterwards for another corner, which comes in handy. At the moment, only one team is threatening, but then a mistake on Modric by Alba allows Croatia to poke a ball into the box and as Modric lifts it in, Petkovic lays back and Kovacic’s drive from the edge is deflected behind. This corner may be the last chance to avoid the “lottery” of penalties.
116 min The resulting corner comes into play.
115 min Rodri wants the game finished and as Fati forces Croatia to spread their midfield blanket wide, he is given some space and he delivers another shot from distance which Sutalo’s header sends behind.
113 min Modric flicks a ball out to the right but when it comes back to him he can’t pick out a man and Spain clear. But Brozovic quickly wins it back … for all the difference it makes, Alba clears as Modric tries to pick out another pass.
112 min Switch to Croatia, Stanisic replaces Juranovic – who is marked as Spain have switched him up on the left.
110 min “The standard of international football is as good as it has ever been,” says Paulo Biriani. “The problem you are dealing with is that in major tournaments there is a more even field, very few teams now dominate every game because their opponents are so much better than their historical counterparts. In the old days it was different . You could argue that with all the money spent on teams, the Champions League is actually quite boring.”
I don’t agree. There is no team as good or even close to Spain 2008-12 or France 98-02 and so on. And look at recent tournament winners – Argentina 22, Italy 20, France 18, Portugal 16, Germany 14 – nothing special either.
108 min My cover starts to fail and returns in time to see Olmos’ shot deflected wide and the corner provides another. It’s Spain looking to seize this, but Rodri’s shot is blocked and they build again.
107 min Good work from Fati who finds Alba and his ball in is decent but Asensio hitting the box can’t control it, a poor first touch that sees it run away.
106 min Burnley, meanwhile, are in pre-season training for 2023-24. But back on the field, Fati shows lovely feet to move the ball behind his standing leg and escape Majer, but the cross he rises up is easily claiemd by Simon.
106 min Last half of the 2022-23 season. Here we go!
105+2 min Spain give it away deep in their own half and Vlasic grabs the loose ball only to have a shot blocked, then down the left side of the box Brozovic angles to shoot onto his right foot but can’t get the power or the elevation to torment Livakovic.
105+1 min It’s really strange that Spain don’t have better strikers than these.
105 min We have two more minutes.
104 min Yes, Spain look more likely and as Asensio cuts in from the right he drills a shot that is blocked and bounces back to Olmo but the ball bounces just before it reaches him so he gets under it and from the edge slams home a shot above and beyond.
102 min Sorry, a few minutes ago Carvajal replaced Navas at right back.
101 min A team with better strikers than Croatia could have a lot of fun with Spain’s high line. I know it’s a strange thing to say but I’m Zlatko Dalić – for the avoidance of doubt I’m not – I’m thinking of sticking Perisic through the middle just to see if his pace and power can give them a problem .
99 min Back to what I said about tournaments, the highest level match in Qatar and by far was England v France. Anyway, excuse me while I interrupt myself, because here’s Kovacic, breaking forward and ball-carrying, as we said, sliding a pass through to Majer … and for a second it looks like he’s in! But his first touch, although good, leaves the ball slightly under his feet and out of nowhere Nacho, who has to be careful because he is on a yellow, slides in to pull off a great save challenge. It has also cost him a bit of pain and Spain have used all their subs but I think he will be fine to continue.
98 min I’m not advocating overtime binning, but I’d be interested to know how often the score changes during it.
98 min Nacho commits a free kick against Petkovic and receives a yellow card; Rodri commits a free kick against Majer and gets a warning.
96 min I hate to say it, but real talk: the standard of international football is pretty low at the moment and it’s been a long time since we had a really good team. On the contrary, the tournaments, which used to be won by the best, are now won by whoever plays the best in the last two or three games.
95 min But what a waste: Fati goes short and soon Spain are back near the center circle.
94 min It is Spain who look more interested in finding a winner, perhaps because they are a younger side who did not play 120 in midweek – although Croatia had an extra day to recover. And here it is Navas who swings over a cross from the right, who hits a header and goes behind for a corner.
93 min “As a Man City fan,” says Phil Grey, “I’m curious to know how Kovacic gets on as he looks to be heading for the Etihad. He was robbed by Gavi in the 12th minute, and since then Peter Shilton has been mentioned more than Kovacic. Quiet game?”
I will say that. He would be a similar signing to Phillips who, should Rodri be injured or suspended, whose ball-carrying skills could be useful but is not good enough to start regularly.
91 min Juranovic sends in a cross from the right and Vlasic might shoot from the edge, but instead he lays off to Petkovic, who is quickly crowded out.
91 min Croatia put us away again.
For the first time, the Nations League final requires extra time.
90+4 min Croatia win a corner, Modric heads it in… and Spain clear.
90+2 min This has been an okay match, but the sides have pretty much canceled each other out.
90 min Another Croatia change, Majer – who was effective against the Netherlands – replaced Kramaric. We have four extra minutes.
90 min And here they come, Navas teases an elevated pass behind to Asensio. But he’s nobody with him so he has to go for goal on his weaker right foot and send an effort across goal and a foot or two wide of the far post.
89 min Croatia look to be playing for extra time while Spain look for a winner.
87 min Another change for Spain, Olmo replaces Gavi.