Spain Defeats Italy 2-1 To Set Up A Nations League Final Against Croatia On Sunday.

Spain defeats Italy 2-1 in the semi-final courtesy of a winner by Joselu on Thursday night, to set up a Nations League final against Croatia on Sunday.

The Spanish side took the lead inside three minutes when Yeremy Pino won the ball off a blunder by Italy legend Leonardo Bonucci outside his own box before firing in Spain's opener at the De Groslch Veste stadium, Netherlands.

But Italy had a swift response, with Ciro Immobile converting from the penalty spot after debutant Robin Le Normand was whistled for an unfortunate handball inside the box.

The score remained level until the 88th minute, until substitute Joselu pounced from a close range after Rodri's deflected shot to secure victory for Spain.

Joselu wasn't really supposed to get a Spain call-up at this stage in his career, but he managed to do in four minutes of being on the pitch what Alvaro Morata couldn't in 83... put the ball in the net.

The 33-year-old had enjoyed a middling season, scoring 16-times in LaLiga with a relegated side Espanyol, and didn't appear to offer much for the national team. But he has now scored in each of his first three appearances for La Roja, In addition to preparing to joining Real Madrid.

The victory eases pressure on head coach De la Fuente, who had been heavily criticized after March’s loss to Scotland, in what was only his second game in charge.

"Now the most important thing is that we win this trophy," said midfielder Rodri, who played a full 90 minutes just last Saturday, and scoring the most important goal (winner), as Manchester City beat Inter Milan 1-0 in the Champions League final in Istanbul.

"It's been a long time without a trophy so that's the opportunity we have on Sunday night."

Jesus Navas, who became Spain’s oldest ever player at 37, told Spanish broadcaster TVE.

“I am very happy for everyone, the group and the coach deserve it,” 

“We played with great intensity, we’re delighted and we can be very proud of getting ourselves into the final.

“It’s a beautiful and hard-fought triumph, this is the way we have to go to achieve success.”

La Roja, who lost the 2021 Nations League final to France, faces a Croatia side bidding to win their country's first international trophy.

Luka Modric had sealed an extra-time win for Croatia as they upset hosts Netherlands to secure a thrilling 4-2 win in the first Nations League semi-final the previous day.

Andrej Kramaric and Mario Pasalic had turned the tie after Donyell Malen’s opener.

The Netherlands then scored a 96th-minute equaliser through Noa Lang to take the tie to extra-time.

Bruno Petkovic restored Croatia's lead with a stunning goal. But it was fitting that Luka Modric, 37, had the final say from the spot after another age-defying masterclass.

Spain's last major trophy was the 2012 European Championship when the thrashed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final and won in the 2021 Nations League semi-finals, while it is the Italians who had the most recent laugh after beating Spain on penalties in the Euro 2020 semis, before winning the tournament.

It's been a rough few months for Roberto Mancini. The manager was perhaps lucky to stay in a job after Italy lost to North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifying playoff almost 15 months ago, and his tenure hasn't improved much since then. 

The Azzurri have only won seven of their last 13, and look a far cry from the side that won Euro 2020. He will certainly be in charge for the third place playoff this weekend, but Mancini's days after that might be numbered.

Italy must face the Netherlands in the Nations League third-placed play-off at the FC FC Twente Stadion, Enschede, earlier on Sunday, before the final at Stadion Feijenoord, Rotterdam. Kick-off 7.45pm.

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