French lick their wounds as Yamal has the last laugh

July 10 – French coach Didier Deschamps acknowledged Spain were “superior” as Les Blues suffered Euro 2024 elimination following their 2-1 semi-final defeat in Munich.

France opened the scoring after just eight minutes through Randal Kolo Muani’s header, their first goal from open play in the tournament with their 87th shot.

Lamine Yamal levelled with a long-range stunner, becoming the youngest scorer in major tournament history at the age of just 16 years and 362 days.

Dani Olmo seized on the momentum swing four minutes later to put his side ahead and the Spanish held on, the first time France have been eliminated at the semi-final stage of a major tournament since Euro 1996.

“Spain proved tonight that they are a very good team,” Deschamps said. “We were lucky enough to open the scoring, but they caused us difficulties because they were superior in their control. Tonight, they showed all their qualities.

“We were a little slow, perhaps a little less fresh. We didn’t move [the ball] forward often enough and were slow in our passing.”

France, in truth, had failed to live up to their tag as pre-tournament favourites, alongside England – who meet the Netherlands tonight for a place in the final.

Yamal also became the youngest ever player to feature in a semi-final at a major tournament, surpassing Pele who was 17 at the 1958 World Cup against France.

Unsurprisingly, the Barcelona winger was named as UEFA’s Player of the Match

“I am extremely happy to share this moment with the team, I am savouring the victory,” said Yamal who turns 17 on Saturday, the day before the final in Berlin.

Asked what he would like for his birthday, Yamal whose goal will be remembered and replayed for years to come, responded: “To win, win, win. It will be a joy to celebrate my birthday in Germany with the team.”

Meanwhile Deschamps refused to point the finger at Kylian Mbappe and the rest of his underperforming team who haven’t won the Euros for 24 years.

“The responsibility is mine. Against a Spain team of that quality, you need to be at your very best. I can’t reproach the players for not giving everything. They were not all at 100% in this tournament for different reasons.”

Winning Spanish coach Luis de la Fuente understandably waxed lyrical about his 16-year-old wonderkid.

“We saw a touch of genius,” he said. “We all need to take care of him. I would like him to work with the same humility and keep his feet on the ground, to keep learning.

“He looks like a much more experienced player to be honest. I celebrate that he is in our team, that he is Spanish. We count on him and hopefully we can enjoy him for years to come.”

Whoever Spain face in the final, they would be advised not to question Yamal’s talent.

Prior to the game, French midfielder Adrien Rabiot said Yamal would need to “show more than he had so far at the tournament”.

At the end of the semi-final Yamal celebrated by speaking into a TV camera: “Speak now, speak now.”

Emerging for the post-match news conference at 12:15am, when most other 16-year-olds would be asleep, he was asked who his comments were directed at.

“The person I am talking about, this person will know who this person is,” he replied.

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