Italy finally lost after 37 matches unbeaten under Roberto Mancini. For whatever it is worth, Spain successfully got its Euros semifinal revenge. What might have made it even sweeter was getting it at the San Siro, the home of the Azzurri.
La Roja will now meet France on Sunday night for the final. The World Champions had to come from two goals down to defeat Belgium in Thursday’s final four encounter- an attempt at redemption of some sort.
If the quality of the semifinal matches is anything to go by, there is plenty to expect when both world-class nations take to the pitch, at the Turin stadium for the finale.
Spain’s Journey To The Final
Luis Enrique was reappointed as head coach in November 2019 having stepped down following the death of his daughter. His first real objective was to get Spain back to the glory days beginning with the UEFA Nations League.
The former European Champions were in League A Group 4 alongside Germany, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Enrique’s men snatched the equaliser against Germany in the dying minutes of injury time to get the first point on matchday 1.
They defeated Ukraine home and away and managed a win (home) and a draw (away) against Switzerland.
Spain registered their intentions when they hammered Germany 6-0 to top the group and qualify for the last four. Ferran Torres had also become indispensable as he notched a hat-trick.
The Manchester City forward was also the star of the show in the semifinals, scoring a first-half brace. The Italians, even with Leonardo Bonucci sent off tried to claw their way back. However, Lorenzo Pellegrini’s late goal was not enough as Spain marched on to the final.
France’s Road To The Final
Didier Deschamps’ men were in League A Group 3. A group that featured the defending Champions of the UEFA Nations League, Portugal, Croatia and Sweden.
Les Bleues began the campaign with a slim 1-0 win against Sweden before comfortably defeating Croatia 4-2.
They played out a goalless draw with Portugal. Away wins against Croatia and Portugal and another home win against Sweden ensured that France made it to the semifinals.
Yet, the semifinal was different. France had lost momentum. They were coming off the back of a poor outing at Euros and an average showing in their last World Cup Qualifiers.
At the end of the first half, France was already two goals down courtesy of two goals from Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku.
Karim Benzema drew one back in the early minutes of the second half, Kylian Mbappe restored parity and Theo Hernandez turned the game on its head with a goal on 90 minutes.
What To Expect
France and Spain will be desperate to win the UEFA Nations League as a way to get back to reckoning after some mediocre performances in the recent past.
Enrique will look to send out a similar line-up to the one that defeated Italy. While the squad may have been forced upon him owing to injuries to old members, the new boys have stood up to the challenge. Gavi, Marcos Alonso and Yeremy Pino were outstanding on the night.
The aim will be to control the possession while hoping to pick out spaces in the opponent’s defence.
Ferran Torres will also prove just as pivotal as he has been for Spain in the last year.
Deschamps will be keen for a similar second-half performance as against Belgium. However, he will look to avoid the laxity that characterised the team’s showing in the first.
They will hope to seize the spaces behind Spain’s defensive high-line and Mbappe’s pace would be key.
This encounter looks sure to be keenly contested. However, France looks set to nick it just for its gulf in attacking quality.