HomeNewsLes Bleus EDGE OUT LA ROJA


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France won the UEFA Nations League, beating Spain 2-1 at the San Siro in Milan on Sunday night in an enthralling encounter. Mikel Oyarzabal opened the scoring for Spain but Didier Deschamps’ men came from behind again, as they did in the semifinal against Belgium to take home the trophy.



Both sides came out with a positive outlook and ready for the task as Spain looked to impose themselves straight from the first whistle. 17-year old Barcelona midfielder Gavi brought down Aurelien Tchouameni in the second minute for the classic ‘show them you’re there’ tackle and there were a lot of niggling fouls in general.

Paul Pogba provided the first real instance of quality when he slid a pass through to Karim Benzema, who would have been offside which was academic as he was unable to get a shot away after rounding Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon. Spain grew into the game and their young lineup began to outrun the French side.



Manchester City winger Ferran Torres was exceptionally bright, seemingly beating his man every time he got a one-on-one opportunity. He played in Pablo Sarabia who scuffed his shot into the welcome arms of Hugo Lloris. Chances became more scarce as the half wore on as both sides cancelled each other out. Spain though did look the more likely team to get the breakthrough but things were goalless at the break.

France were dealt a significant blow as their senior centre-back Raphael Varane went off injured a few minutes before the interval. The second half started in the same manner with tensions running high as Pogba received a yellow card right after the restart.



Both sides looked more attacking in the second half and half chances become more and more frequent. The game burst into life after the hour mark as Theo Hernandez struck the crossbar after a swift counter-attack. Spain retorted sharply as Mikel Oyarzabal opened the scoring after a neat through ball by Sergio Busquets. Varane’s injury was decisive as his replacement Dayot Upamecano gave the Spanish winger far too much space to manipulate the ball and get a shot away.

The goal kicked Deschamps’ men into action and Benzema responded in style, curling the equaliser into the top corner two minutes after the opener. Mbappe had two good chances soon after but failed to convert and he would be disappointed with that.



The PSG forward made amends in the 80th minute as he gave France the lead, finishing smartly past Simon after being played in by Hernandez. There was a hint of offside in the goal but the VAR deemed it onside and the goal stood.

Spain pushed for the equaliser and Oyarzabal nearly got his second only to be denied by a great save by Hugo Lloris. Space opened up for France on the counter but they were unable to take advantage, with Mbappe missing the best chance by shooting straight at Simon.

Lloris made a sharp save again in injury time and France held on for the win. Here are our key takeaways from the match –



Luis Enrique opted for a more flexible and fluid attacking line of Torres, Sarabia and Oyarzabal with Alvaro Morata starting on the bench, as he did against Italy in the semi-final. The trio were linking well but they did lack a bit of composure in the final third which held them back from hitting the back of the net in the first half. Oyarzabal however kept his nerve in the second half to open the scoring after being played in by Busquets.



The Spanish manager deserves credit for making a working strike line out of the three players given that Torres and Sarabia are not guaranteed starters at their clubs and Oyarzabal does not play for an absolute elite club. In fact, Spain’s entire run in the tournament shows that there is scope for improvement even in international football and that individual quality is not the be all end all.



France may have their problems but the sheer level of individual quality in their squad makes them such a difficult opponent. Despite being anonymous for an hour, Benzema took his chance when given the slightest opportunity to score the equaliser which turned the tide in Les Bleus’ favour.



Kylian Mbappe too had an off day but he got the winner, his pace and movement being impossible to defend against. Pogba was immense in midfield, taking on Busquets, Rodri and Gavi almost single-handedly. It is a testament to Didier Deschamps that he makes a side with all the superstars work but it also begs the question of how much more fun they would be under a more positive set-up.



Spain lost out in the semifinals at the Euros and today they lost the final but the signs are there that this side is building up to something special. If all goes well, they should peak around the 2022 World Cup which is an exciting prospect.




They have a great balance of youth and experience with the likes of Busquets and Azpilicueta leading a squad filled with exciting young prospects. It will be little consolation today but in the long-run, Spain looks destined for international success.

Ritwik Khanna
Economics student supporting FC Goa and Manchester United, in true masochistic way. Can be found reading Jonathan Wilson and Sid Lowe or planning a quirky trip in his free time.

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