FIFA World Champions France came from behind in a second consecutive match to beat Spain and win the Nations League title at San Siro in Italy.
Kylian Mbappe fired a controversial winner in the 80th minute that proved to be the decisive goal. As the Spaniards laid siege to the French goal, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had to produce two fine saves at death to the second biggest international title in European football.
Lloris first kept out Oyarzabal before he produced a stunning save to deny Yeremi Pino’s effort in stoppage time, as France became the competition’s second winner after the inaugural winners Portugal in 2019.
After a largely dire 60 minutes of play, the game came to life when Spain took the lead through Mikel Oyarzabal in the 64th minute. The forward shrugged off defender Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano to beat Lloris.
However, Spain’s lead did not last long as the Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema cut in on his right foot to curl the ball over Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon for the equalizer. Benzema’s strike came less than two minutes after Spain’s opener.
Mbappe’s winner stirs controversy
Despite the entertaining second half, it was Mbappe’s winner that triggered heated debate across the football world and on social media. The match officials let the goal stand even though the Paris St-Germain striker was in an offside position when Theo Hernandez played the initial through ball. Mbappe took Hernandez’s pass and slid the ball under Simon for the winning goal.
It is worth mentioning that Spanish centre-half Eric Garcia had touched the ball in his attempt to clear the danger before it came to Mbappe. The rules state that “a player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball… is not considered to have gained an advantage”.
Earlier on Thursday, France came back from 2-0 down to beat neighbours Belgium 3-2. They had to fight back again in the final as French manager Didier Deschamps’ side once again showed its resilient side.
While France enjoyed only 36 per cent possession, they constantly posed a threat on the counter-attack as Mbappe’s winner proved.
“We showed character”
Veteran striker Benzema, who only returned to the international fold before Euro 2020 in the summer, said, “I really wanted to win a trophy with France, and now it’s done. We showed strength of character because this team is very strong, never gives up and we have proven it today.”
The Real Madrid striker said, “It is the sign of a great team not to panic, to be patient and to wait for the right opportunity.”