Spain’s Ferran Torres celebrates scoring their second goal(Reuters)
Spain’s Ferran Torres celebrates scoring their second goal(Reuters)

Nations League: Spain hammer Germany 6-0 to reach final four, Portugal beat Croatia

Sparkling Spain crushed hapless Germany 6-0 at home on Tuesday to storm into the final four of the Nations League in style as forward Ferran Torres scored a first career hat-trick.
By Reuters | Associated Press
UPDATED ON NOV 18, 2020 12:39 PM IST

Sparkling Spain crushed hapless Germany 6-0 at home on Tuesday to storm into the final four of the Nations League in style as forward Ferran Torres scored a first career hat-trick. Germany were powerless to stop Luis Enrique’s relentless side as the visitors suffered their worst defeat in a competitive game and the most humiliating since losing by the same scoreline against Austria in a friendly in 1931.

Alvaro Morata, Ferran and Rodri gave Luis Enrique’s side a 3-0 half-time lead, while Ferran struck again early in the second half and completed his treble with a classy finish. Substitute Mikel Oyarzabal tapped in the sixth goal in the 89th minute to adorn an incredible Spain display and deepen four-times world champions Germany’s misery.

“We walked all over them in every sense,” said Spain midfielder Rodri. “We scored six but it could have been far more. We are still a group with little experience but this will give us a lot of confidence.”

Morata meanwhile took pleasure in silencing Spain’s critics after they snatched a 1-1 draw away to Switzerland on Saturday. “We had the opportunity to send a strong message out to the whole world and we have done just that,” he said.

The victory saw Spain finish top of League A4 with 11 points after six games, joining France in the final four tournament, which will take place in October 2021. The Germans, who only needed a draw to progress to the final phase, came second with nine.

Spain suffered an early injury setback when Sergio Canales was taken off but his replacement Fabian Ruiz had an immediate impact, sending in a superb delivery from a corner and Morata rose unmarked at the far post to head home in the 17th minute. Morata netted again soon after by connecting with a cross from Ferran but his strike was incorrectly ruled offside, with no VAR in operation in the Nations League.

However, Spain quickly shrugged off any sense of injustice as Ferran smashed in their second goal on the rebound in the 33rd after Dani Olmo had glanced against the post, while Rodri headed home a corner from Koke five minutes later.

Spain lost captain Sergio Ramos to a suspected muscle injury towards the end of the first half on his European record-extending 178th appearance for his country but they grew ever more confident after the break as Germany continued to wilt.

Dani Olmo spurned a chance to add to Spain’s lead, allowing Manuel Neuer to make a rare save in a match where his main task was picking the ball out of the net on a night when he became Germany’s most capped keeper with 96 games ahead of Sepp Maier.

But Ferran showed no mercy, taking a pass from ex-Valencia team mate Jose Gaya to net his second and then receiving a ball from Fabian and beating Neuer from outside the box to become the first Spain player to score a hat-trick against Germany.

Dias strikes twice as Portugal beats Croatia

Portugal’s Ruben Dias scored his first two international goals to help the European champion to a 3-2 win at 10-man Croatia in its Nations League clash on Tuesday, stretching its unbeaten run against the host to seven games. The Manchester City defender capped a fine individual performance with a 90th-minute winner after Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic spilled a corner, settling an entertaining contest in Poljud stadium.

The result left outgoing holder Portugal second in League A, Group 3 on 13 points from six games, three behind world champion France, which beat Sweden 4-2 at home having previously wrapped up their final-four berth in the competition. Croatia finished third on three points, ahead of bottom team Sweden on goal difference, and avoided relegation from the Nations League top tier although the defeat is likely to pile more pressure on coach Zlatko Dalic.

Mateo Kovacic fired Croatia into a 32nd-minute lead but the home side suffered a double blow early in the second half as Dias levelled straight after Marko Rog was sent off for two yellow cards. The second was brandished for a crunching foul on Cristiano Ronaldo, whose viciously swerving free kick was parried by Livakovic to Ruben Semedo who set up Dias to tap the ball in from close range in the 51st minute.

Although Ronaldo had a quiet evening, his team-mates flourished on a poor pitch and Joao Felix turned the tide on the hour when he scrambled the ball home past two defenders on the line after good work by Diogo Jota.

Croatia appeared to be on the verge of earning a draw after Kovacic levelled with a superb first-time shot from the edge of the penalty area midway through the second half but they were undone by a late howler from Livakovic. Although he was under no pressure, the keeper spilled a simple corner and the ball bounced off Dejan Lovren’s back and Dias was perfectly positioned to sweep it into an empty net from eight metres.

Chelsea’s Kovacic rued Croatia’s defensive lapses. “We conceded three silly goals and gave away a red card but at least we stayed up in the Nations League’s top tier,” he told reporters. “I am happy to have grabbed two goals as I haven’t scored too many for Croatia, but it’s all about the team. We have to improve and get back to winning ways.”

Dalic was relieved Croatia avoided the group’s wooden spoon. “We’ve managed to avoid the drop but not thanks to good performances,” said the 54-year old coach who steered the Croatians to a runners-up finish in the 2018 World Cup. “I am glad this year’s international season is over, though a bit sad the lads were unable to avoid defeat against the European champions after a sterling effort.”

Giroud on target as France send Sweden into League B

Olivier Giroud bagged a double as he showed his worth for France again to help the world champions beat Sweden 4-2 at home in the Nations League on Tuesday. Giroud scored either side of Benjamin Pavard’s first-half strike as Les Bleus recovered from Viktor Claesson’s early opener.

Sweden, who reduced the arrears through Robin Quaison before France’s Kingsley Coman wrapped it up in stoppage time, were relegated into League B. Didier Deschamps’s France side, who had already qualified for the Final Four, topped Group 3 with 16 points from six games, three points ahead of Portugal, who beat third-placed Croatia 3-2 away.

Sweden finished bottom on three points, behind Croatia on goal difference. Giroud, who has only made three Premier League appearances for Chelsea this season, has now netted 44 international goals to move seven shy of Thierry Henry’s all-time France scoring record. Claesson put the visitors ahead after four minutes when his shot from inside the box took a deflection off Raphael Varane and wrongfooted Hugo Lloris.

Les Bleus hit back in the 16th minute, with Giroud finding the back of the net with a low shot on the turn from Marcus Thuram’s cutback. Pavard gave France the lead nine minutes before the break with a low, driven volley after Thuram had drawn the defence towards him with a dazzling run into the box.

Giroud, who has been warned by Deschamps that he needs to sort out his club situation in order to stay in the squad, put the result beyond doubt with a header from second-half substitute Kylian Mbappe in the 59th minute.

Quaison pulled one back two minutes from fulltime but it was too little, too late for Sweden, who conceded another from late substitute Coman at the end of a counter attack five minutes into added time.

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