France are the Nations League winners.
France recovered from a goal down to beat Spain 2-1 to clinch the UEFA Nations League 2020-21 title. Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe were on target for Les Blues as Mikel Oyarzabal’s opener for La Roja was wiped out.
In a first half of few chances, both sides fought hard for the ball, but conjured very little opportunities. However, following some back-and-forth action, Spain found the breakthrough in the 64th minute when Oyarzabal shot from close range.
Their lead, though, lasted only a few minutes, as Benzema equalised for the world champions less than two minutes later with a sizzling strike. With the game in the balance once again, extra-time beckoned,, but Mbappe drilled home France’s second in the 80th minute to seal the deal.
Replays showed he might have a tad offside, but the goal was allowed to stand following a VAR check. France held out for the remainder of the match to win another piece of silverware, erasing the painful memories of their Euro 2020 exit.
Meanwhile, for Spain, it was a good effort with plenty of positives to draw from ahead of next year’s Qatar showpiece. On that note, here are the five hits and flops from either team in the match:
Hit: Karim Benzema (France)
Karim Benzema scored a screamer against Spain.
Showing up in the big games is Karim Benzema’s biggest forte, and he gave Spain a taste of the same with a fabulous goal which triggered France’s comeback.
Having struggled to make a real impact till then, the Real Madrid striker found a massive opening in La Roja’s defence. After collecting a pass from Mbappe, he set himself up at the edge of the box before curling home a delightful strike.
Spain, who had made the breakthrough just two minutes earlier, saw their lead wiped out in no time.
Benzema had never scored against Spain in five previous clashes. But he finally broke the duck with a peach of goal and on one of most important nights of them all.
Flop: Pablo Sarabia (Spain)
It was another poor outing for the PSG star.
For the second game running, Pablo Sarabia started for Spain, but failed to impress.
The Nations League was a good opportunity for the PSG man to stake a claim in the Spain XI, but he ended up dropping another stinker on the night. Sarabia appeared to have left his shooting boots at home. He first scuffed a half-decent chance straight at Hugo Lloris in the first half. Sarabia then wasted another opportunity after the break despite having acres of space ahead of him.
His communication with Oyarzabal was poor, as the two were almost never in the same wavelength, while Sarabia’s passing was atrocious too. Sarabia only completed nine of his 36 passes.
It may take a while before Sarabia starts for Spain again unless there’s a genuine lack of options in the squad.
Hit: Kylian Mbappe (France)
It was a night of redemption for Kylian Mbappe.
It wasn’t a vintage performance from France’s Kylian Mbappe against Spain by any means. But he finds a mention, as he netted the winning goal to help France clinch the trophy.
Having been on target against Belgium in the semi-final, the PSG starlet followed that up with another goal in the final..Theo Hernandez got away from Cesar Azpilicueta, and released Mbappe with a nice through-ball. Mbappe then tip-toed his way forward before drilling a low strike beyond Unai Simon.
Replays showed the player may have been marginally offside, but following a VAR check, the goal was allowed to stand.
Just months after his costly penalty miss that knocked the world champions out of Euro 2020, Mbappe, with a little bit of luck, redeemed himself by helping them to another title.
Flop: Eric Garcia (Spain)
Eric Garcia had his hands full against Kylian Mbappe.
Make no mistake, Eric Garcia is a talented young defender. But his performance against France didn’t fully reflect that, as the Barcelona centre-back was found out a couple of times at the back. He was left wanting for Mbappe’s winner too.
The 20-year-old struggled with France’s pace on the break and even in open plays. Garcia lacked positional sense, as he left plenty of gaps behind for the French attackers to exploit.
Garcia was also beaten by Mbappe for France’s winner. Although the Frenchman looked to be marginally offside, Garcia played Mbappe onside by laying a boot on the ball in the lead-up.
Hit: Mikel Oyarzabal (Spain)
Mikel Oyarzabal stepped up to the plate once more.
Mikel Oyarzabal‘s stock continues to rise. After assisting twice in Spain’s semi-final win over Italy, he bagged a goal on Sunday against France, which very nearly handed Spain the prize.
Sergio Busquets laid an excellent long ball over the French defence to pick out Oyarzabal. The Real Sociedad man then escaped his marker, Dayot Upamecano, before firing a low shot beyond Hugo Lloris.
Out of nowhere, Spain were in the ascendancy with 64 minutes gone. Although France responded swiftly, Oyarzabal reaffirmed his prowess on a big night.