Tactical Analysis: Croatia 0-0 Spain | Nations League Final

Spain won the Nations League final in a match in which Luis de la Fuente made various tactical changes that the team needed. We start by analysing Spain’s pressing, with the block higher than against Italy. Gavi on Brozovic, Rodri on Kovacic and Fabian on Modric. When the wingers jumped on the centre-back, the full-backs paired with the full-backs, as it happened here with Alba on Juranovic.

In this play we can see Fabián jumping on Modric who drops to receive and Rodri moves to the left to occupy the middle of the pitch, doing a better pairing Rodri-Fabián than the one in the semi-finals with Rodri and Merino.

Spain’s best pressing actions came when they could put the midfielders with their back to goal, producing recoveries such as this one from Gavi that led to one of the best chances of the game. 

With Croatia unable to do a clean job in the build-up, we saw more and more long balls, especially in the second half, which made Spain’s job easier. In these aerial duels Rodri again showed why he is one of the best players in the world.

When Croatia got into the opposition half Spain sit in a mid block, instead of dropping to a low block, not giving time to the Croatian midfield to take the best decision. Luis de la Fuente also positioned the full-backs closer to the centre-backs, making the team narrower to have less problems in the long balls, one of Spain’s main weaknesses.

This was one of the few long passes behind the defensive line in which Spain suffered, with Kramaric roaming in the left flank, Brozovic attacks the space taking advantage of the gap between centre-backs.

Where Croatia could do damage was on the flanks, as the full-backs were narrow, generating 1v1 situations. The player who made the most of them was Perisic who played a superb game, with Jesus Navas having a lot of problems to stop him. The finishers of these plays were often the full-backs from the opposite flank, in this case Juranovic, who was left unmarked.

Despite Spain’s good defensive work to minimise Croatia’s strengths, Luis de la Fuente’s team struggled in possession. We can see how the centre-backs had the possibility to drive almost into the opposition half, but the height of the midfielders + Gavi didnt provide solutions, the occupation of space was not good and there wasn’t enough aggressiveness. The centre-backs were afraid of losing the ball, the full-backs with a cautious approach and no superiority on the wings.

Spain’s best minutes in possession came with Ansu Fati and Dani Olmo on the pitch. They weren’t at a high level but brought more determination, creativity and verticality.

In the penalty shoot-out a great Unai Simón broke the Croatian dream, winning the Nations League for Spain.

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