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Spain 1-2 France: Benzema and Mbappe secure Nations League triumph
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Kylian Mbappe celebrates after giving France the lead in the Nations League final
Kylian Mbappe celebrates after giving France the lead in the Nations League final

Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe inspired France to come from behind once again and defeat Spain 2-1 in Sunday's 2021 Nations League final.

The reigning world champions, who overturned a two-goal deficit against Belgium in Thursday's semi-final, fell behind to Mikel Oyarzabal's second-half strike moments after Theo Hernandez had hit the woodwork.

However, Luis Enrique's side – who ended Italy's record 37-game unbeaten run in Wednesday's semi-final – were pegged back two minutes later as Benzema curled in magnificently.

Mbappe then doubled the blow as he netted after 80 minutes for France to secure their second trophy in three attempts following their win at the 2018 World Cup and disappointment at Euro 2020.

Marcos Alonso's wayward speculative long-range free-kick represented the only notable first-half chance as Spain struggled throughout the first 45 minutes to make their initial 66.7 per cent possession pay.

Raphael Varane was then forced off before the interval with what seemed to be an innocuous injury and matters worsened for Didier Deschamps' side after the break.

Mbappe's smart offload almost set up an opening goal but Hernandez struck the crossbar before Oyarzabal, who was released by Sergio Busquets, drilled into the bottom-right corner after 64 minutes.

However, Benzema and Mbappe combined to immediately level, with the former drifting inwards to bend a right-footed effort into the top-right corner before the latter put France into the lead.

The PSG forward appeared offside as he rounded Unai Simon following Hernandez's throughball but a VAR check stuck with the original decision as Mbappe recorded his fourth goal involvement of the Finals – more than any other player.

Oyarzabal then provided a late scare as he connected sweetly with a left-footed volley but was denied by Hugo Lloris before the France goalkeeper parried away from Yeremi Pino's first-time attempt to secure victory in the second edition of the competition.

What does it mean? France come from behind again to win Nations League

France avoided defeat after conceding the opening goal for the seventh time in 2021 – three more times than in any other calendar year – to earn perhaps their most impressive victory to date.

Spain, as expected, dominated 64.1 per cent of possession but Deschamps' side managed as many shots as their opponents (12 each) to respond emphatically to an underwhelming Euro 2020 campaign.

Almost perfect from Pogba

A needless second-half yellow card for Paul Pogba had the Manchester United midfielder playing on thin ice.

However, he negotiated the challenge exceptionally to combat Spain's wealth of midfield experience, enjoying a team-high 77 touches and making a team-leading 42 passes, while competing for 21 duels – the most of any player on the pitch.

Griezmann struggles in landmark game

Antoine Griezmann became just the ninth player to 100 appearances for his country but struggled in his landmark game.

The Atletico Madrid loanee managed just 37 touches – the fewest of any France player, barring Varane, to start the game – and won just over a third of his eight duels as he was limited by Spain's three-man midfield.

What's next?

Spain return to World Cup qualifier action as they travel to Greece on November 11, while France host Kazakhstan two days later.


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