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Spain Fights Back Against France And Qualifies For the Final

Spain Fights Back Against France And Qualifies For the Final

Kai Iliev Kai Iliev

The storylines were destined to be huge, and the headlines were always exciting: After dismantling Germany in the quarterfinals (2-1), Spain faced another major nation, France. The narratives were set, and the match did not disappoint – in fact, it exceeded expectations. 

Every ninety minutes (or one hundred twenty) has its winner, and it took less than 70 minutes for Spain to convince Europe that it deserved to be the first qualified nation for the EURO 2024 final. Here’s how it all happened.

Early Setback for Spain with 9th Minute Goal

Spain was always the favourite. Since the beginning of the tournament, they have shown the most cohesive unit in all phases of play. Spain regularly outclasses their opponents and is patient enough to maintain short leads.

However, concerns mounted as the clash against Germany had its consequences: Pedri was injured in the 7th minute, and both Carvajal and Le Normand were suspended for the match against France.

This meant that half of the backline needed to be replaced. Le Normand was replaced by Nacho – who had already played the first game and turned out to be a disaster – while Jesus Navas filled in for Dani Carvajal. 

Navas Struggles Against Mbappé’s Speed

While Nacho’s performance was more than respectable, fulfilling his role with quality, the concerns about Navas’ lack of pace were justified from the first minutes.

He knew, Spain knew, France knew. We all knew it was going to happen. Kylian Mbappé’s dynamic runs and 1v1 confrontations were always expected to spell disaster for Spain.

Jesus Navas is simply too slow to keep up with the Frenchman’s blistering pace, and that was the origin of the first goal. Kolo Muani scored in the 9th minute, capitalizing on Mbappé’s effort from the wing. It may sound simplistic, but football can indeed be that straightforward.

This goal meant that Spain was in for a tough night, with the French knowing they could afford to fold back as the Spaniards struggled to deliver effective crosses. The French defense, full of robust aerial players, rendered crosses ineffective. It seemed like France was having the perfect night… until it wasn’t.

Flawed French Strategy Exposed by Spain

France’s logic was flawed: if it worked previously, it should have worked yesterday. But they weren’t facing just any team; they were facing Spain. The high level of attacking dynamism of Spain, led by a relentless high press, meant that France’s lack of precision was rapidly punished. 

Nothing was more evident than Lamine Yamal’s genius saving his country once again. Spain often looked to play inside the channels, around zone 14. The 16-year-old realized that the more he roamed in the half-spaces and the central areas, the more chances he would create.

Hailed by his coach as a touch of genius, he curled the ball to the left goalpost. Maignan jumped, but the rebound on the goalpost meant it was a goal, taking everyone by surprise. 

There was not much anyone could do, as if Harry Potter guided the magical foot of Lamine Yamal. It seemed incredibly effortless, similar to most of his goals. 

Back-to-Back Goals Propel Spain Forward

The momentum had already shifted before the goal. Curiously enough, Didier Deschamps’ team looked completely lost, barely using Mbappé’s advantage on the wing, and often finding themselves defending to the last meter. Against Spain, this is unsustainable.

Soon enough, amid the chaos, just four minutes after Lamine Yamal’s bombazo , Dani Olmo arrived in zone 14, and took advantage of a passive France to double the score. 

Only twenty-five minutes had passed, but it was evident that the French were in trouble. Rarely do teams recover psychologically when conceding such impressive goals within five minutes.

France’s Dull Display: A Team Out of Ideas

For a team that was built around Kylian Mbappé, France appeared completely clueless against Spain. Players like N’Golo Kanté and Adrien Rabiot never found the solution, unable to unbalance Spain’s set-up despite the visible gaps in their counter-pressing. The substitutes, including Griezmann and Giroud, barely made a difference.

For much of the squad, it felt as if they were simply past their prime. France’s generation is full of talent, but many still seem stuck in the past. This stagnation is reflected in Deschamps’ approach, as he, too, seems overdue for a change.

One of the few players keeping the tie alive was Jules Koundé, who successfully shut down Nico Williams on the wing – an accomplishment not many have achieved in this tournament.

Additionally, Barcelona’s right-back was often involved in circulating the ball, emerging as one of the team’s creative leaders. This unexpected scenario highlights the deeper issues within the French squad.

Deschamps could not devise a new formula, repeatedly attempting to replicate the 2018 and 2022 strategies with different players, resulting in France’s poor display.

Spain’s Brilliance Between The Lines

Watching France and Spain was like watching the difference between night and day. Spain was full of tools that could be used in different ways. The reason France struggled was that Spanish players continuously found pockets of space between the defensive lines. 

Fabian Ruiz, Dani Olmo, and Lamine Yamal all combined effectively, exploiting the gaps in France’s defense.

The system had obvious weaknesses – the mismatch between Jesus Navas and Kylian Mbappé, Théo Hernández’s ability to exploit his prowess, and Kolo Muani’s goal, which highlighted the disconnect between the two defenders. Curiously, Nacho was rarely pressed, despite it being his obvious vulnerability.

Spain looked like superheroes, executing plays that were anticipated by the entire world. 

France arrived at the clash empty-handed, attempting to avoid the worst by defending. It worked against other teams, but it couldn’t work against Spain, whose confidence is through the roof. 

Can Spain Claim Their Fourth EURO Trophy?

De La Fuente’s team will now have to wait for the winner of the other semifinal, pitting England against the Netherlands. It is likely to see the Three Lions face the Spaniards in the final, which would be a remake of the last Women’s World Cup Final. 

That same game led to Rubiales’ dismissal but also saw Spain’s victory over the Lionesses. It would be monumental if the men could replicate the brilliance of the women, potentially securing the 4th EURO trophy for Spain’s men’s team.

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