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Monday, December 6, 2021
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HomeSportsMbappe breaks Spain's hearts in Nations League final

Mbappe breaks Spain’s hearts in Nations League final

Kylian Mbappe scored a controversial late goal to help France rally from a goal down to defeat Spain 2-1 in the final of the 2021 UEFA Nations League on Sunday night at the San Siro in Milan, Italy.

After a cagey first hour of play between the two, things opened up with a goal from Mikel Oyarzabal for Spain, but France responded with scores from Karim Benzema and then Mbappe’s decisive strike, which appeared to have come from an offside position, but was later confirmed by VAR as a valid goal.

Despite leaving the semi-final win over Italy with an early knock, Ferran Torres was back in the starting XI for head coach Luis Enrique, while Rodri came into midfield for Koke and Eric Garcia replaced Pau Torres in the back.

It was a tight first 45 minutes of football between the two sides. France and Real Madrid striker Benzema had a chance early on despite suspicions of offside, but held the ball too long, allowing Cesar Azpilicueta to clear his deep cross.

Overall, La Roja were doing a nice job keeping France’s vaunted attacking force of Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe in check, with 17-year-old Barcelona midfielder Gavi playing well beyond his years.

Luis Enrique went to his bench for the first time at the hour mark, with Yeremi Pino on for Pablo Sarabia, and it was shortly after that when things started to pick up.

France lurched forward on the counter attack with Mbappe and Benzema working down the left flank and the latter slipping a pass into Theo Hernandez, who stung a shot off the crossbar.

Moments after that, though, Spain would unlock the French defence, with Sergio Busquets filtering a pass into Oyarzabal, who muscled off a French defender and finished with aplomb for his left foot to make it 1-0 to Spain.

France’s reaction was immediate. Just after Spain had concluded their celebration, veteran striker Benzema curled in an exquisite right-footed shot to bring the reigning world champions level.

Back to the bench went Luis Enrique with a quarter of an hour to go, this time swapping Koke and Gavi, but the momentum stayed with France and it yielded the decisive score in the final 10 minutes, albeit with some controversy.

Theo slipped a pass into Mbappe, who initially appeared offside, but the flag stayed down and the PSG man finished to earn his side a 2-1 lead. The Spanish players looked around waiting for the flag to be raised and then for VAR to overturn the goal, but the original call stood.

In hopes of getting a late equaliser, Pablo Fornals and Mikel Merino were brought into the fold for Rodri and Ferran Torres, respectively. Spain poured numbers forward and had a few good looks for a late leveller, including good cracks from Oyarzabal and Pino, only to be denied by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris until the final whistle.

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