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UEFA Nations League: Spain beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to reach the final four

New Delhi: Spain scored an 88th-minute goal to end its winless streak against Portugal and advance in the Nations League to complete the Final Four lineup. Spanish coach Luis Enrique was ready for the criticism but a late goal changed it all, and it was all joy as Spain headed into soccer’s showcase event.

Wonderful to be back in final four – Enrique

“The questions in soccer will always be a consequence of the results. If we had lost in the 85th, then it would be said that everything was a disaster. Now it’s all different,” said Enrique.

The late goal by Álvaro Morata secured a 1-0 victory that allowed Spain to overtake Portugal in Group A2 and join Croatia, Italy and the Netherlands in the finals to be played in June next year in the Netherlands.

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“It’s wonderful to be back in the Final Four. Victory is the best antidote for any depression or sadness,” said the Spanish coach.

Spain needed a victory to return to the Final Four after losing last year’s final to France. Portugal won the competition’s inaugural edition at home in 2019 but hasn’t made it past the group stage since then.

The goal scorer Morata said, “Nico, in only his second game with the national team, was key after the pass from Carvajal, and I just had to push the ball into the goal. We fought until the end.”

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Spain got its first competitive away victory against Portugal since a 2-1 World Cup qualifying triumph in 1934.

The neighbors had drawn their last four matches including friendlies. Spain’s last triumph against Portugal had come in a penalty shootout in the semifinals of the 2012 European Championship.

Luis Enrique had made seven changes to the starting lineup after the home loss to Switzerland, with Barcelona players Sergio Busquets, Gavi Páez, and Pedri González among those relegated to the bench.

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