Soccer

France Win UEFA Nations League

France Nations League
Hugo Lloris lifts the Nations League trophy for France! Photograph: Tullio Puglia – UEFA/UEFA/Getty Images

France won the second ever UEFA Nations League with a 2-1 victory over Spain. After an uneventful first half, the game came alive just past the hour mark as both teams scored within two minutes of each other. After this, the game opened up with both teams searching for a winner. Kylian Mbappé eventually got it ten minutes from time, though question marks surround the decision not to call him offside.

Lead-up

Both teams came into the game after midweek success in the semi-finals. Spain had a surprise victory against EURO champions Italy, defeating them 2-1. France, meanwhile, staged a stunning second half comeback to overcome a two goal deficit against Belgium. Both sides made two changes to their semi-final line-up, one at centerback and one in central midfield each. For France, Presnel Kimpembe and Aurélien Tchouaméni came in for Lucas Hernandez and Adrien Rabiot. For Spain, Eric Garcia and Rodri replaced Pau Torres and Koke.

First Half

The first half was an uneventful affair, as Spain dominated possession but could not find a way through. In similar fashion to several of their EURO performances, La Roja had two thirds possession, but only two shots. The one noteworthy moment came at the end of the half, when France defender Raphaël Varane went off injured. Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano came on in his place.

Second Half

The second half started with more energy, and truly came to life shortly after the hour mark. France thought they had the opener in the 64th, but Theo Hernandez’s shot came off the bar. Thirty seconds later, Sergio Busquets put Mikel Oyzarzabal through at the other end. The Spaniard went past Upamecano and finished clinically from a tight angle to put his team ahead. Celebrations were short lived, however, as France immediately hit back. Attacking down the same left flank that gave them their earlier chance, Karim Benzema found himself in the corner of the box and curled it beautifully past Unai Simón. Two minutes after Spain’s opener, France had equalised.

With the goals, the game opened up and both teams started attacking more. France had the better opportunities in the next fifteen minutes, Mbappé coming closest with a couple of half-chances, but neither team could get their second. Then, in the 80th, Mbappé ran in behind and kept his composure to put his team ahead. Though replays appeared to show the strike offside, the goal stood and France had the lead with ten minutes to go.

Final Moments

With time running out, Spain pushed men forward in search of an equaliser. Their best chance to do so came in the 88th, when Oyarzabal hit a low volley on goal, but Hugo Lloris did well to get down to it. With five minutes added on, France brought Jordan Veretout on for Antoine Griezmann to see out the game.

Spain got one final chance in the 4th minute of added time, as everyone, including the goalkeeper, came up for a corner. The ball went over most players, but substitute Yeremi Pino was at the far post to hit it on the volley. Once more, however, Lloris made an excellent save to keep his team in front. Spain kept trying, but there was to be no more opportunities, and France won 2-1. With the result, Les Bleus became the first team ever to win a World Cup, EURO, Nations League, and Olympic gold.

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