Les Bleus

Mbappé bags winner as France claim Nations League title

Publish on 11/10/2021 at 10:00 - S. WILLIS

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Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappé was once again on target to get his side over the line as Les blues came from a goal down to claim the inaugural UEFA Nations League title 2-1 over Spain in a thriller at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in Milan on Sunday.

Karim Benzema and Mbappé both struck in the 3-2 come-from-behind semi-final win over Belgium on Thursday and it was same pair who did the damage again on Sunday as Didier Deschamps' France side added the Nations League to their 2018 World Cup title.

In a tight, tactical match that saw both sides limit each other to very few chances, it wasn't until after the hour-mark that things got going in earnest, Spain striker Mikel Oyarzabal getting the better of Dayot Upamecano and beating Hugo Lloris with a clinical angled shot (64').

France hit back - hard

But it took prodigal son Benzema just two minutes to cook up a reply, the Real Madrid man underlining his importance to the side with a moment of magic. Played in by Mbappé on the left-hand side of the area, the OL youth academy graduate curled a superb shot in at the far post, a touch from Unai Simon not enough to stop Les Bleus from getting right back into the match (66').

This paved the way for Mbappé to do what he does best, the Paris Saint-Germain prodigy using his trademark blistering pace to race onto a Théo Hernandez through-pass - in a move that would have been ruled off-side had Barcelona defender Eric Garcia not got a touch to the ball - and bamboozle Simon with a step-over and left-footed finish into the bottom corner (80').

A goal-saving tackle from Paul Pogba and a superb save from Lloris followed as Spain pushed hard for a leveller to send the match into extra-time, but the final whistle came too soon for the Iberians and France held out to claim the inaugural UEFA Nations League title.

"It was a difficult match against a good team," Benzema told M6. "We showed strength of character. This team is very, very strong, and we never give up. That's the sign of great teams, to be patient, not to panic and to wait for the right moment. We're going to enjoy this trophy first and then go after the World Cup."
Coach Didier Deschamps admitted his side struggled at times, but lauded their capacity to push hard and unsettle their very worthy opponents.

"We stopped playing after 20 minutes. We suffered and we went backwards, but we hit back quite quickly," explained the France boss, who also fielded Ligue 1 Uber Eats stars Presnel Kimpbe (PSG), Aurélien Tchouaméni (AS Monaco) and Léo Dubois (OL) in the final. "At half-time, we decided to go after them higher up the pitch and take more risks - even if it meant going one-on-one at the back. We tried to win the ball back in advances positions and create danger. The Spanish always have this ability to monopolise the ball. By being more aggressive, we made them make mistakes. My lads still have that spirit and character."