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EURO 2024

Spain v France, a knockout clash which usually leads to Euro triumph

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Euro 2024 - France Training - Munich Football Arena, Munich, Germany - July 8, 2024 France's Kylian Mbappe, William Saliba and Eduardo Camavinga during training REUTERS/Michaela Stache

Spain and France meet in the Euro 2024 semi-final on Tuesday, and in all three previous knockout stage games between them at the tournament, the winners have gone on to become European champions.

 Euro 2024 – Spain Training – Donaueschingen, Germany – July 8, 2024 Spain’s Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams during training REUTERS/Robin Rudel

Despite clashing for the first time in 1922, their first competitive meeting arrived over 60 years later when after 19 friendly games, they both reached the 1984 Euro final.

Michel Platini had scored eight goals in France’s four games on the way to the final, including two hat-tricks, and his free kick broke the deadlock against Spain, thanks to a goalkeeping disaster.

After a scoreless first half, France were awarded a free kick just outside the area 12 minutes after the break. Platini stepped up and curled his low effort around the Spanish wall but his shot never looked like finding the net.

Luis Arconada, Spain’s keeper and captain, was covering that side of the goal and appeared to catch the strike comfortably but somehow let the ball squirm out of his grasp as he hit the ground and watched in despair as it rolled slowly over the line.

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France’ Yvon Le Roux became the first player to be sent off in a Euro final five minutes from time, but Spanish hopes of a comeback were dashed in stoppage time when Bruno Bellone made it 2-0.

Platini lifted the trophy, France’s first major tournament win, and his record of nine goals in a single tournament still stands. The sides clashed again at the knockout stage when they met in Bruges for the quarter-final of Euro 2000.

The French came in as World Cup holders, and once again it was a free kick which put them ahead, but they didn’t need a goalkeeper howler this time as Zinedine Zidane whipped his shot into the top corner.

Spain equalised with a penalty, but Youri Djorkaeff netted the winner before halftime, and France, captained by current manager Didier Deschamps, went on to win the tournament with David Trezeguet’s golden goal in the final against Italy.

The Spanish finally claimed their first competitive win over France at Euro 2012. This time it was Spain who came into the tournament as not only world champions, but also defending their Euros title won in 2008.

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Xabi Alonso, earning his 100th cap, was the difference in Donetsk with the midfielder scoring both goals in Spain’s 2-0 win over France and they went on to retain their title in style with a 4-0 hammering of Italy in the final.

After coming through what was seen as the tougher side of the draw in Euro 2024, the winner of their tie in Munich will be fancied to lift the trophy in Berlin on Sunday when they will take on the winners of England and the Netherlands who play on Wednesday.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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EURO 2024

‘A superstar is born’ – Yamal’s history making moment of ‘genius’

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BY GARY ROSE, BBC Sport journalist at Allianz Arena

Every so often, a goal is scored at a European Championship that stands the test of time. It is remembered, replayed, and talked about for decades.

Marco van Basten’s angled volley at Euro 1988 is one. Paul Gascoigne’s individual run and finish at Euro 1996 is another, as is Karel Poborsky’s chip at the same tournament.

Lamine Yamal’s history making goal for Spain against France in the semi-finals of Euro 2024 can be added to the list.

With Spain trailing 1-0, Yamal curled a brilliant strike from outside the box into the top corner to send him into the history books.

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At 16 years and 362 days he became the youngest man to score in the tournament’s history – and had those watching left in awe.

“A superstar is born,” former England striker Gary Lineker said on BBC One. “It was the moment of the match, possibly the moment of the tournament.”

“Just incredible,” added ex-England striker Alan Shearer. “We’ve been talking about him all tournament and saying what a ridiculously young age it is.

“To do that, it’s just outrageous.”

The goal, which had fans inside the Allianz Arena and around the world gasping as it was replayed in slow motion, was all the more impressive because of its timing.

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This was at 1-0 down in the semi-final of a major tournament. It was a high-pressure moment, but one he handled effortlessly.

At no stage in the build-up to the heavyweight contest did Yamal show signs of nerves.

He was smiling and joking with his team-mates on the pitch in the hours before kick-off, and carried that confidence into his performance.

“We saw a touch of genius,” Spain boss Luis de la Fuente said of Yamal’s goal.

“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.

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“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.”

-BBC

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EURO 2024

‘Beginning of two legends’: Photos of Messi and baby Lamine Yamal resurface

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Messi and Yamal's mum

In 2007, a young Lionel Messi posed for photos with a baby in the dressing room of the Camp Nou in Barcelona for a charity calendar photoshoot.

Messi, who was 20, was already making a name for himself and would go on to become arguably the greatest of all time.

But little did the photographer know that the baby would also make waves in international football less than 17 years later.

Messi was bathing Lamine Yamal – the 16-year-old who is taking the European Championships by storm.

Lamine Yamal as a baby with Lionel Messi in 2007

His goal against France in the semi-final on Tuesday is one that will be talked about for decades.

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At 16 years and 362 days, the strike also made him the youngest man to score in the tournament’s history.

The long-forgotten photo of Messi and Yamal resurfaced after Yamal’s father posted it on Instagram last week with the text: “The beginning of two legends.”

The photos were taken by Joan Monfort, who works as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press.

The shoot came about after Unicef did a raffle in the town of Mataró where Lamine’s family lived, he said.

“They signed up for the raffle to have their picture taken at the Camp Nou with a Barça player. And they won the raffle,” Mr Monfort told the Associated Press.

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The assignment wasn’t a straightforward one, the photographer said.

“Messi is a pretty introverted guy, he’s shy,” he said.

“He was coming out of the locker room and suddenly he finds himself in another locker room with a plastic tub full of water and a baby in it. It was complicated. He didn’t even know how to hold him at first.”

Like Messi, Yamal went on to play for Barcelona, where he became the club’s youngest ever starter and goalscorer, as well as the youngest scorer in the Spanish league.

Mr Monfort said it was only when the photo started going viral online last week that he realised that the baby was Yamal.

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“It’s very exciting to be associated with something that has caused such a sensation,” he said.

“To tell you the truth it’s a very nice feeling.”

-BBC

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EURO 2024

Koeman proud after coming close to Euro 2024 final

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-Euro 2024 - Semi Final - Netherlands v England - Dortmund BVB Stadion, Dortmund, Germany - July 10, 2024 England's Harry Kane scores their first goal from the penalty spot REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman was feeling more pride than hurt after his side came tantalisingly close to reaching the Euro 2024 final, falling to a last-ditch 2-1 comeback by England in the semi-final on Wednesday.

Koeman said it was heartbreaking to lose a game where he thought his side were best, but felt Dutch fans should be optimistic about the future after his players showed an attacking mentality until the end.

“I’m disappointed about the final result because it started good for us,” said Koeman, whose team went 1-0 up after seven minutes thanks to a brilliant Xavi Simons strike.

But the Dutch went on to relinquish control in midfield against English players like Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden, Koeman said, before then coming back strongly.

“The feeling was we were the better team overall in the last 20 minutes, we went on attacking more. And suddenly, there was that great goal,” he added, referring to Ollie Watkins’ stoppage-time winner.

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“And it was all over … that’s difficult to accept.”

Koeman said he did not agree with the decision to award the penalty that brought England level when Harry Kane was caught by the studs of Denzel Dumfries as he shot.

But the Dutch coach said his side could still have turned the game back to their advantage had they been more decisive.

“As a former defender myself, what could he do in that position? He tried to block the ball … To penalize that is to tell him we cannot play properly football,” Koeman said.

“That’s my personal opinion. We should be proud because we’ve achieved many things in these weeks and there’s no criticism after seeing how my player fought until the end.

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“We have fought like lions. We just needed a little more balance and the English team did it better than us, so congratulations to them.

“I have to thank my players because they believed in something and it was good to see that … Although now it’s too late. We can’t do anything with that feeling, but in the future we will come back stronger.”

Koeman said that he is already looking forward to the 2026 World Cup and believes that the Netherlands will reach it with a great mixture of youth and experience that should make them a power to reckon with.

“I believe our team are able to do more and there are also players who will join us in the future. Some people were not able to play because they were not fit,” Koeman said.

“We have worked in a proper way together, it was important and it gave us a path to follow. We have to improve some aspects as well but I think we were really close to the finals.

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“Great mentality … Team spirit … I wish I could see them playing in the final … but it’s not possible… And I feel so sorry about that.”

-Reuters

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