Spain beats France 2-1 to reach Euro 2024 final with Yamal youngest-ever scorer at the tournament


MUNICH — Spain reached the European Championship final with a 2-1 victory over France on Tuesday with 16-year-old Lamine Yamal becoming the youngest-ever scorer at the tournament.

France took an early lead when Randal Kolo Muani headed in a cross from Kylian Mbappé, who played without a mask, before Yamal’s moment of brilliance in the 21st minute. Dani Olmo scored what was to prove the winner four minutes later.

“We were in a difficult stretch after not expecting to concede so early. I just took the ball and wanted to put it right there. I am very happy,” Yamal said.

“I don’t try to think about it too much, just enjoy myself and help the team, and if it goes my way, then I am happy (for the goal) and for the win.”

Spain, which is chasing a record fourth European Championship title, will play England or the Netherlands in the final on Sunday in Berlin.

They play each other in Dortmund on Wednesday.

“We knew they were a great team, and they proved it again tonight,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “Even though we were fortunate to open the scoring, Spain made things difficult for us.

“They were superior in terms of control and technique. The team that gave the best impression was Spain. So they deserve to win tonight.”

There was surprise in Munich when Mbappé took to the field without the mask he has been wearing since getting his nose broken in France’s opening group game at Euro 2024.

Mbappé had been complaining the mask was impeding him, and ditching it appeared to have an immediate effect as he created the game’s opening goal in the ninth minute with a tantalizing cross to the back post that was headed in by Randal Kolo Muani.

That was the first goal France had scored at Euro 2024 that wasn’t a penalty or an own-goal. Fortunately for Les Bleus they had also been exceptional at the back, allowing just one goal, a retaken penalty by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski in the group stage.

But there was no stopping Yamal’s stunning equalizer in the 21st minute as he became the youngest player ever to score at a men’s European Championship when he curled the ball past Mike Maignan and in off the left post from 25 yards.

And Spain turned the match around completely four minutes later when Olmo’s goalbound-shot was turned into his own net by France defender Jules Koundé. It was originally adjudged by UEFA to have been an own-goal but was later awarded to Olmo.

“We are very close, just one more step to go. It is incredible what the team is doing. We deserve to be in the final, one step from glory,” Olmo said. “Whether it is my goal, or Koundé’s, it doesn’t matter. A goal is a goal. The important thing is that we are in the final.”

France dominated possession in the second half but couldn’t make it count.

Théo Hernández should have done better when he blazed a good chance over the bar late on, and Mbappé did similar with four minutes remaining.

Spain could have been further ahead between those chances as another powerful strike from Yamal flew narrowly over the crossbar.

___ The lead and headline of this story has been corrected to show that Yamal is the youngest player to score in the European Championship, but not in all major international tournaments.

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AP writers Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, and Tom Nouvian in Paris contributed to this report.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024



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