Having reached the final of the 2018 World Cup and finished third at Qatar 2022, Croatia were desperate to go one step further and clinch a maiden title.
They were certainly well backed in Rotterdam, with a sea of Croatian flags and red and white shirts in the De Kuip stands.
It was also a chance for Luka Modric, earning his 166th international cap, to top off a stellar career with a first piece of international silverware.
The pressure of this may have contributed to a slow start by Croatia, with Gavi almost capitalising as Spain pressed high only to drag a shot wide from a good position.
Croatia soon hit their stride, however, their direct style causing issues for Spain with their high defensive line and only a fine tackle by Laporte denied Andrej Kramaric when a ball over the top seemed to have set the striker free.
As the game wore on towards extra time, Croatia continued to apply more pressure. However it was Spain who had the better chances with Marco Asensio coming close with a header, Fabian Ruiz chipping narrowly over and Ansu Fati denied on the line by Ivan Perisic in the second half.
Extra time brought no winner so penalties decided the outcome, bringing glory to Spain and despair to Croatia.
It remains to be seen whether this was Modric’s final chance to deliver a trophy for his country, with the 37-year-old former Ballon d’Or winner set to make an announcement on his international future this week.
Defeat may yet see him stay on to play in next summer’s European Championship in Germany.