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REPORT – France 2-1 Spain

France won the UEFA Nations League and defeated Spain 2-1 on Sunday evening at the San Siro in Milan in a thrilling encounter. Mikel Oyarzabal scored the first goal for Spain, but Didier Deschamps’ men again came from behind, as they did in the semi-final against Belgium, to take the trophy home.

Both teams were positive and ready for the task as Spain tried to prevail from the start. 17-year-old Barcelona midfielder Gavi defeated Aurelien Tchouameni in the second minute for the classic ‘show them you’re here’ tackle and there were generally lots of annoying fouls.

Paul Pogba provided the first real quality when he slid a pass to Karim Benzema, who would have been sidelined, which was academic as he was unable to fire after defeating Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon. Spain grew into the game and their young lineup began to overtake the French side.

Manchester City winger Ferran Torres was exceptionally intelligent and seemed to beat his man every time he had a one-on-one opportunity. He starred in Pablo Sarabia, who shot his shot into Hugo Lloris’ welcome arms. The chances became narrower as the half went on as both sides canceled each other out. While Spain seemed like the more likely team to break through, they were goalless at break.

France suffered a severe blow when long-time center-back Raphael Varane left the field injured minutes before half-time. The second half started the same way with high tension as Pogba received a yellow card right after the restart.

Both teams appeared more offensive in the second half and the half-time chances became more frequent. The game came to life after an hour when Theo Hernandez hit the crossbar after a quick counterattack. Spain responded sharply when Mikel Oyarzabal made the top scorer after a clean through pass from Sergio Busquets. Varane’s injury was crucial as his replacement Dayot Upamecano left the Spanish winger far too much leeway to manipulate the ball and shoot a shot away.

The goal brought the men of Deschamps into action and Benzema responded with style and rolled the equalizer into the top corner two minutes after the start. Mbappe had two good chances shortly thereafter but couldn’t convert and would be disappointed.

The PSG striker made amends in the 80th minute when he gave France the lead and passed Simon after a Hernandez lead. There was an indication of offside in the goal, but the VAR thought it was on-off and the goal stood.

Spain pushed for the equalizer and Oyarzabal almost got his second place only to be fought off by Hugo Lloris with a great save. France opened up space on the counterattack but they couldn’t take advantage of it as Mbappe missed the best chance by shooting directly at Simon.

Lloris parried another sharp save in stoppage time and France held on for victory. Here are our key takeaways from the game –


Luis Enrique opted for a more flexible and fluid attack line from Torres, Sarabia and Oyarzabal, with Alvaro Morata starting on the bench as he did in the semifinals against Italy. The trio bonded well, but they lacked a bit of makeup in the final third that kept them from hitting the net in the first half. However, Oyarzabal kept his nerve in the second half to score the goal after a lead by Busquets.

The Spanish coach deserves credit for turning the three players into a working line of scrimmage, as Torres and Sarabia are not guaranteed starters in their clubs and Oyarzabal does not play for an absolute elite club. In fact, the entire tournament series in Spain shows that there is also room for improvement in international football and that individual quality is not the be-all and end-all.


France may have their problems, but the sheer individual quality of their squad makes them such a difficult opponent. Although Benzema remained anonymous for an hour, Benzema took his chance when the slightest opportunity to equalize, which turned the tide in favor of Les Bleus.

Kylian Mbappe also had a day off but won the victory as his pace and movement were impossible to defend. Pogba was immense in midfield and almost single-handedly competed against Busquets, Rodri and Gavi. It’s proof of Didier Deschamps that he’s working with all of the superstars, but it also begs the question of how much more fun they’d be under a more positive setup.


Spain lost in the semi-finals at the European Championships and lost the final today, but the signs are that this team is building something special. If all goes well, they should peak around the 2022 World Cup, which is an exciting prospect.

They have a great balance between youth and experience with players like Busquets and Azpilicueta leading a squad with exciting young prospects. It won’t be of any consolation today, but in the long run Spain looks to be an international success.

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