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Yamal comes of age with wonder goal

Teenager fires Spain into Euro 2024 final

Updated: 2024-07-11 09:12
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Spain winger Lamine Yamal celebrates beating France in the Euro 2024 semifinal at the Munich Football Arena in Munich on Tuesday. AFP

MUNICH — Lamine Yamal has been living a teenager's dream at Euro 2024, but it was on Tuesday in Munich where he came of age with a sensational strike against France, firing Spain into the final with a 2-1 victory.

France started well, taking the lead after eight minutes through a Randal Kolo Muani header, which came off the back of a beautiful curled cross into the six-yard box from Kylian Mbappe. However, the 16-year-old Yamal produced a bolt from the blue to stun Les Bleus, becoming the youngest goal scorer in the tournament's history.

His dramatic intervention after 21 minutes rocked Didier Deschamps' side, and just four minutes later, Dani Olmo fired home the decisive second goal.

Barcelona winger Yamal created goals for teammates in the wins over Croatia, Georgia and Germany, but until Tuesday, had not managed to find the net himself.

"We were a goal down and I just got the ball — I didn't think about it much, just shot at goal," Yamal, named player of the match, told ZDF.

"I'm not thinking much about (only being 16), I'm just enjoying it and I'm proud to be in the final."

Yamal came to Euro 2024 with a bunch of "youngest" records, and has inevitably set more.

He became the youngest player to feature at a men's European Championship when he started in Spain's opening 3-0 win over Croatia.

The teenager was already the youngest player to debut and score in the Spanish league at 15, the youngest player to start in the Champions League and the youngest to score for Spain.

"We are very happy to reach the final. Now comes the most important part — winning the title," Yamal said.

"We were in a difficult stretch after unexpectedly conceding so early. I just took the ball and wanted to put it right there.

"I don't try to think about it too much, just enjoy myself and help the team, and if it goes my way, then I am happy (for the goal) and for the win."

The forward has improved with virtually every appearance and become a vital figure for his club.

With Spain, it is a similar story. Yamal is already a key player for La Roja, despite having made just 13 appearances for his country.

The last of which — lucky number 13 — saw him make history and score arguably one of the goals of the tournament.

"We have seen a genius, the work of a genius," said delighted Spain coach Luis de la Fuente.

"We are lucky he is Spanish and we can enjoy him for many years.

"And I can only advise him to keep going forward with the same humility and work ethic and with his feet firmly on the ground.

"He will keep improving with the same attitude, professionalism and maturity that he shows during games, despite being so young, which makes him look older and more experienced than he really is.

"But above all, he should enjoy playing for us. Hopefully for many years."

A touch of Messi

Lamine Yamal scores Spain's first goal during its Euro 2024 semifinal against France in Munich on Tuesday. AP

Yamal's game is bright, but not excessive, with his tricks designed to open up space for himself rather than to show off. He largely makes sensible decisions, but also fires up the crowd with his showstopping dribbling skills.

In that regard, he is similar to a player he looked up to as a child, former Barcelona great Lionel Messi.

Last week, a barely-believable photo emerged of the Argentina forward bathing a baby Yamal back in 2007 as part of a charity calendar featuring Barcelona players.

"The beginning of two legends," wrote Yamal's father Mounir Nasraoui who shared the photo on Instagram.

Spain's 38-year-old rightback Jesus Navas, who started against France, is older than Mounir.

France midfielder Adrien Rabiot is 29, but lacked the wisdom not to challenge a record-breaking player who is seemingly undaunted by any challenge he faces.

" (We have to) show him that, to play in a Euros final, he will have to do much more than what he has done so far," said Rabiot before the game.

Yamal posted a graphic with the caption: "Move in silence, only speak when it is time to say checkmate" on Instagram, hours before doing just that by eliminating France on the pitch.

For his stunning goal, Yamal's tricky footwork and agility helped him lose Rabiot and earned him the space to shoot.

The youngster nearly got another goal in similar fashion in the second half, shaking free of Theo Hernandez and whipping the ball narrowly over the bar.

If there is one area he has to improve, it is becoming more lethal in front of goal, but that will surely come.

The winger picked up a booking in the final stages for pulling Hernandez back, stopping the French defender from making a break — a cynical but effective decision, and another example of his maturity beyond his years.

"I'm very proud of Lamine, people will talk about the goal, the stellar appearance of this 16-year-old kid — the future awaiting him is huge — but I congratulated him for his defensive commitment, such a complete game, constantly helping out," said midfielder Rodri.

Yamal will turn 17 on July 13, the day before the final in Berlin against either England or the Netherlands. What does he want for a present?

"To win, to win, to win," said Yamal. "It was my objective, to celebrate my birthday in Germany."


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