France take their place in only the second ever UEFA Nations League final thanks to a thrilling semi-final comeback against Belgium, Theo Hernández applying the 90th-minute coup de grâce in Turin. Aiming to atone for their round of 16 exit at UEFA EURO 2020, the world champions showed impressive collective mettle against Romelu Lukaku and Co to earn their shot at another trophy.
Spain, meanwhile, enjoyed a more serene route to this showpiece. Luis Enrique’s men saw off European champions Italy in Milan, ending their opponents’ world-record unbeaten run in the process. The two finalists last met at a major tournament at UEFA EURO 2012, when La Roja ran out 2-0 quarter-final winners courtesy of a Xabi Alonso double on his 100th international appearance.
Graham Hunter, Spain reporter: Spain’s first senior final since UEFA EURO 2012 comes thanks to their most complete, thrilling display since those halcyon days. There are questions to answer, though. Which players are tired after a gargantuan effort against Italy? Gavi, barely 17, was magnificent, but does he start the final? Can Ferran Torres recover from the knocks that forced him off early in the second half?
La Roja’s appetite, ability and faith in Luis Enrique’s playing philosophy make them deserving and attractive finalists.
David Crossan, France reporter: Against a Spain side that dazzled in the first 45 minutes against Italy, Les Bleus cannot afford to play the way they did in the first half against Belgium. However, should Didier Deschamps’ team carry on where they left off against the Belgians then it’s Spain who will have cause for concern.
Kylian Mbappé, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann have begun to click and that spells danger. Even so, France are still getting accustomed to a 3-4-1-2 system which requires some further balancing, and midfielder N’Golo Kanté’s absence through illness was keenly felt on Thursday.
Luis Enrique, Spain coach: “Look at France’s squad, and their starting XI; they play for top clubs and they are stand-out players: the best squad in the world. The three players they have up front are superb and capable of turning any game. But we won’t change anything about our attitude or our ideas. We played and beat the best team from the EURO and what better now than to play the reigning world champions? I want to win a national title with Spain, that’s something the majority of us have not done. A reminder of how it feels to win a tournament would be good for everyone involved.
Didier Deschamps, France coach: “It’s impossible to deprive Spain of the ball. It’s in their DNA to have the majority of possession. You can press but not just any old how. They’re capable of passing the ball out even under pressure. They also pressed Italy very well when they lost the ball. The best tonic is winning. The evening after the semi-final there was a lot of joy and happiness and it meant there was a lighter mood the next day. It gives everyone confidence. Spain have maintained the quality of their play. We have more experience but that gives us no guarantees. We’ll need to have all the right ingredients in order to go out there and claim the trophy.”