UEFA Nations League: France beat Spain to land title

  Kylian Mbappe fired past Unai Simon to lift France past Spain on Sunday in the final of the UEFA Nations League. (Photo credit: GOAL) Fran...

 

Kylian Mbappe fired past Unai Simon to lift France past Spain on Sunday in the final of the UEFA Nations League. (Photo credit: GOAL)

France overcame Spain on Sunday to win the UEFA Nations League at the San Siro stadium, recovering from yet another goal down situation to emerge champions.

France had qualified for the finals after coming back from a two goal deficit against Belgium on Thursday and had to do it again on Sunday after Mikel Oyarzabal fired La Roja in front in the second half of a game of two opposite halves.

Luis Henrique handed a starting role to Pablo Sarabia upfront alongside Oyarzabal and Manchester City ace Ferran Torres as he hoped to lead a mix of the past and the future to a confidence boosting title but France had other ideas.

Le Bleus started brightly, testing Spain with the pace of Kylian Mbappe as well as the drive of Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann was in the hole as the number 10 while Benjamin Pavard and Theo Hernandez operated as wingbacks.

Spain eventually grew into the game and forced a fine save from Hugo Lloris midway into the second half and their next attack afterwards led to what looks like a big problem for Manchester United with Raphael Varane forced off due to what might be a hamstring problem.

The first half was generally subdued but the second half was a different story entirely. Paul Pogba was booked for hacking down Sergio Bousquet and that seemingly fired up the Frenchman; Hernandez struck the underside of the crossbar just after the hour mark only for Spain to score on the counter.

The ball was cleared into the midfield and Bousquet sent a long ball to the French area where substitute Dayot Upamecano couldn’t deal with Oyarzabal, the Real Sociedad forward held off the Bayern Munich defender and fired past Hugo Lloris for the opener.

The game opened up from there and France equalized shortly after that. Karim Benzema bent one round the goalkeeper for a tantalizing equalizer and from that point it was anybody’s game.

With ten minutes on the clock, France grabbed the winner through Mbappe who in truth was having an underwhelming game. The PSG man raced through from a Hernandez pass and coolly slotted past Unai Simon and France weathered the Spanish storm for the remainder of the game.

"We showed our character against a very strong team. We never gave up," said Benzema. "It shows what great teams do -- never panic, be patient and wait for the right time.

"We are going to enjoy this trophy and then go get the World Cup [next year]."

Coach Didier Deschamps said that Benzema's contribution to the team extended beyond his goals.

"Karim is an essential player, he's proved it over the last two games," said Deschamps.

"He's in line with what he’s been doing with his club. He's extremely fit, way more than he was before, and he's more mature. He's got this rage to win that he communicates to the other players."

 

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