PLAYER RATINGS | Spain 2-1 France – Les Bleus eliminated after Yamal & Olmo orchestrate quick-fire comeback

George Boxall, reporting from Allianz Arena, Munich

UEFA Euro 2024 Semi-final 09/07/2024

Spain 2-1 France – THE MATCH

Les Bleus’ adventure at Euro 2024 would come to an end as a stunner from Lamine Yamal combined with a devastating finish from Dani Olmo would see Spain mount a comeback in a matter of minutes. Randal Kolo Muani opened the scoring for France on the seventh minute, but Didier Deschamps’ side couldn’t recover from conceding in quick succession in the first half.

Spain would begin the game on the front foot, with a huge first chance for Paris Saint-Germain man Fabian Ruiz who headed over the bar from Lamine Yamal’s inch-perfect cross. Kolo Muani would respond with a quick surge forward, threading the ball through to an unmasked Kylian Mbappé but Laporte would intervene to clear. The two Bondy boys would combine once more, and this time it led to France’s first goal from open play in the tournament. Mbappé edged into the box, shifted his body and then provided Randal Kolo Muani with a sumptuous cross which was emphatically headed into the back of the net. (8′)

The minutes that followed would be the best that it got for Les Bleus in the tournament, finally looking confident on and off the ball and managing to deal with Spain’s quality in attack. But a moment of quality from Lamine Yamal would turn the game on its’ head. The 16-year-old found some space on the edge of the box and curled a superb effort past Maignan, hitting the post on the way in. (20′)

Perhaps a feeling of shock would be a factor in the ensuing chaos, as France would see themselves go behind in quick fashion after Dani Olmo’s two excellent touches in the box set up a devastating finish which cannoned off Jules Koundé into the back of the net (23′). Les Bleus would head into the second half, somewhat stunned to be a goal down and with a lot of work to do to try and claw back any chance of qualifying for the Berlin final.

Les Bleus tentative in second-half

The second half saw Didier Deschamps’ side tentatively turn the pressure valve to try and find an all-important equaliser. With a few chances created. Eduardo Camavinga would replace Rabiot, whilst Griezmann came on for Rabiot in a newly-shaped midfield. Mbappé moved centrally whilst Bradley Barcola came on the left side. Spain dropped into a heavily defensive shape, as Barcola injected some new energy down the left side and Mbappé began to drive in towards the box.

Yet, a red and yellow wall would stand resolute, defending in numbers and nullifying France’s attacking threat. A glorious chance would fall to Théo Hernandez following a failed clearance from Fabian Ruiz, but the defender’s effort would fly over the bar. Kylian Mbappé would also have a golden opportunity as he timed his run to perfection into the left side of the box, cutting in, and uncharacteristically blasting over the bar. It was a second half that mirrored much of France’s tournament so far: wasteful in all departments. Spain were technically and tactically superior than Les Bleus, and managed to see out their lead comfortably as they qualified for the final, winning their sixth straight game in Germany.

FRANCE PLAYER RATINGS:

Mike Maignan, 5 – There wasn’t much he could do about Yamal’s opener, but Maignan’s general play has been good. In possession, his distribution was second to none – providing some excellent balls into the channels to Koundé, Dembélé, on the right and Kylian Mbappé down the left. His ‘walkabouts’ moment to win the ball in midfield and calmly play down the channel at the start of the second half was another positive moment for the AC Milan man. Yet it would amount to little, as France couldn’t make the most of their chances in the second period.

Jules Koundé, 5 – Despite scrambling Olmo’s second goal into the back of the net, Koundé had a positive first period – enjoying a lot of the ball with a lot of confidence when France were in front. He was defensively resolute, but suffered when Spain scored their two quick-fire goals. Like much of the rest of the French side, he couldn’t re-find that level.

Dayot Upamecano, 4

William Saliba, 5

Théo Hernandez, 5

N’Golo Kanté, 3 – A quiet game from the Al-Ittihad man, who was being told to cut the first pass into France’s midfield. It was a plan which didn’t seem to work in the first half, with Kanté caught between his pressing and his tracking duties. It created an imbalance in France’s midfield which was perfectly exploited by the Spanish.

Aurélien Tchouaméni, 3 – The Real Madrid man struggled positionally, whether to follow Ruiz or Morata was a big question for the sitting midfielder in the first period when Spain looked to control the midfield areas which weren’t held decisively enough from France’s midfield three. On the ball his play was non-existent, with Kanté playing higher up the pitch and getting on the ball on more occasions.

Adrien Rabiot, 4 – A really difficult game for the former Juventus man, who was tasked with keeping Dani Olmo at bay. Yet France’s midfield was unbalanced in the first period, and it was clearly overrun by the superior quality in the runs of Olmo, Ruiz, and a solid base in Rodri. He would logically be substituted in the second period.

Kylian Mbappé, 3Unmasked, and finally unleashed at Euro 2024, but it was too little too late from the France captain. Playing with a renewed sense of urgency down the left channel against Jesus Navas, the France captain would quickly provide a quality cross to fellow Bondy native Randal Kolo Muani. Yet that was as good as it got for Mbappé, who was frustrated and wasteful in the final third in the second half, in the image of much of his performances at the tournament.

Randal Kolo Muani, 5 – A second start for the Paris Saint-Germain forward at Euro 2024, and certainly one of the best number 9 performances at the tournament so far for Les Bleus (which doesn’t necessarily say much). His movement was interesting, with some handy runs and combinations with Mbappé in the early period of the match. Of course, his header to put France in front was superb. His effectiveness did seem to fade further into the second half, prompting Deschamps’ switch-up on the hour-mark.

Ousmane Dembélé, 4

GFFN | George Boxall

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