BY JEFREY CANOVA, SPORTS STAFFER
The heroics of French superstars, Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema, helped France win the UEFA Nations League final—with a spark of controversy near the end of the match.
After a disappointing Euro 2020 performance, France was poised to win their first-ever UEFA Nations League trophy. After France’s impressive 3-2 comeback victory against Belgium, they were favorites heading into the match over the young and exciting Spanish side, led by Luis Enrique. After their impressive 2-0 win over the newly crowned European champions, Italy, Spain was hungry to prove their doubters.
For a neutral, the first half was one to forget after France’s impressive five-minute run at the beginning of the match. Both sides were flat as both denied their opposition to create clear-cut chances or get into a rhythm. Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe, and Paul Pogba were practically non-existent due to the monstrous first-half performance from high-ranking youngster, Gavi. He didn’t allow any of the French stars to perform well on the ball.
The second half showed the complete opposite, as it delivered the matchup’s desired expectations. After a crucial error from French Defender Dayot Uamecano, Spanish forward Mikel Oyarzabal scored past Hugo Lloris after a tidy finish to the right-hand corner of the net in the 64th minute to put Spain in the lead. The celebrations were cut short after a world-class goal from Karim Benzema, cutting inside from the left-hand side, before firing the ball past Unai Simon to level the match.
In the 80th minute, after a misread interception from Spanish defender Eric Garcia, Kylian Mbappe scored with ease, winning France their first-ever UEFA Nations League.
Unfortunately, controversy sparked thanks to the debate of the ruling on Kylian Mbappe’s game-winning goal. On the one hand, many say the goal was offside based on Mbappe’s position while receiving the ball. Others believe the goal was correctly ruled, as he touched the ball on a misread interception based on the rule, creating a new play.
Spanish Captain and UEFA Nations League Player of the Final, Sergio Busquets, gave his interpretation of Kylian Mbappe’s goal:
“Mbappe was in an offside position, the referee said that Eric goes to play the ball, and that means it’s not offside. That doesn’t make sense to us. You have to try to play the ball; Eric tried to cut out the pass like any defender would; he didn’t miscontrol.”
On the bright side for Spain, the young and upcoming side showed extravagant talent and heart to compete against the World and European champions. Luis Enrique expressed his positive thoughts on his side:
“I think we competed on the same level as the current world champions, who have a physical potential and quality behind all doubt. We were in the game. It was hard for us at first because they’re new situations for some players.”
“When we scored in the second half, and it looked like we could win, we conceded. They don’t even let you breathe. We’re happy and satisfied.”
France is currently the only national side to win a World Cup, European Championship, and UEFA Nations League trophy. The talent, experience, and leadership from the French national team’s performance against Spain showcased their success. UEFA Nations League Final Man of the Match, Karim Benzema, shared his thoughts:
“We showed our character against a very strong team. We never gave up.”
“It shows what great teams do — never panic, be patient, and wait for the right time.”
The debates on whether Mbappe’s goal was onside or offside will continue as both sides present compelling arguments, leading to possible rule changes for the future. Nonetheless, the soccer world got to experience the greatness of the French national squad and the upcoming youth of the Spanish side. Both teams look ready to compete in Europe, including the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.