June 17 – Spain manager Luis de la Fuente said that facing Luka Modric alarms Spain, but that his team as well as midfielder Rodri are at their best to encounter Croatia.
in the final of the Nations League after a long season, even if he wants to avoid extra-time against a team that excels at navigating long battles.
“Modric puts us on alert, but not only him,” said De la Fuente at a news conference. He called Modric “one of the best midfielders in the world” after the midfielder dismantled the Netherlands and Frenkie de Jong in the semi-finals to steer his side to their first Nations League final, but praised his own defending midfielder Rodri as “the best in the world”.
Rodri acknowledged he was going through the best phase of his career after proving the hero last week in the final of the Champions League with his second-half strike crowning Manchester City European champions for the first time to complete the club’s treble.
Asked if this was his best spell ever, he said: “I think so, in terms of footballing maturity, winning trophies and having wonderful experiences, I would say yes, it is.”
“I want to extend that to the national team now. We beat Italy two days ago in a very tough game, and now we have another final to play. And we must understand the importance of taking these chances and winning a trophy for the first time in a long while. It would be the perfect way to end the season.”
Since his 2018 debut, Rodri has played 42 times for Spain and he featured in the 2021 Nations League Finals when France defeated La Roja. Croatia, spearheaded by Modric, will stand in Spain’s way of claiming the tournament for the first time and De la Fuente’s team are prepared for all scenarios. At Euro 2020, Spain defeated Croatia 5-3 after 120 minutes in one of the most dramatic matches of the tournament.
“We have also planned for extra time,” admitted De la Fuente. “Let’s hope it ends after 90 minutes, that’d be better for us. They have a lot of experience in extra time. The physique takes its toll.”
“I see it as a very even contest, each team has their own strong characteristics but we have both shown that today we are the two best teams in Europe.”
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