Spain overwhelming favourites but they need to rein in Kylian Mbappe which won’t be easy in Euro 2024 semis | Football News

Spain overwhelming favourites but they need to rein in Kylian Mbappe which won’t be easy in Euro 2024 semis | Football News

Two of the recent powerhouses in world football meet tonight in the semifinals of Euro 2024. Yes, it’s Spain vs France! 2010 World Cup winners Spain, for many the favourites to win the ongoing edition, have won the tournament three times — back-to-back Euros in 2008 and 2012 and before that one in 1964 — and are joint-highest along with Germany whom they dispatched in the quarterfinals despite the latter’s advantages of home support and familiarity with the conditions.

Spain will take on France for a spot in Euro 2024 finals(AP)
Spain will take on France for a spot in Euro 2024 finals(AP)

In all honesty, all tournament so far Spain have been the team to beat. They thrashed 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia 3-0 in their group opener before going on to register wins against defending champions Italy and Albania. In their Round of 16 clash, they beat a high-on-confidence Georgia which had beaten Portugal in a group encounter. But against Germany on Friday, they had their biggest test yet, one which they passed with flying colours.

At the MHPArena at Stuttgart, they appeared smooth-sailing into the semis when Florian Wirtz’s strike one minute from time brought the hosts back into the contest. All through the encounter, which was a classic to all intents and purposes, owing to the quality of football on display, Spain showed great control in the face of adversity. Once they led in the 51st minute through a Dani Olmo goal set up by teen superstar Lamine Yamal, for many the match had already reached its conclusion. Germany and Wirtz had other ideas though.

Most teams, understandably tired after such a high-octane 90 minutes, are likely to give up, letting the belief take over that it was not probably their day. There is Slovakia’s example who within a matter of seconds went from reaching the quarterfinals to exiting the tournament. They were one-goal up with just 86 seconds on the clock left when two quick goals – one in stoppage time by Jude Bellingham, one in extra time by Harry Kane turned the tables and just like that Slovakia were out.

But Spain are not Slovakia. Wirtz’s goal was a big heartbreaker but they recovered real fast from that and continued fighting and got their reward in the dying moments of the extra time through Mikel Marino’s header and sealed their place in the last four. Forget Spain’s previous wins in the tournament, they deserve the trophy on that performance alone. Many would buy that thought.

France, on the other hand, have not been that impressive and sole reason is their star striker Kylian Mbappe’s indifferent form. The 2018 World Cup winner, 2022 World Cup runner-up and one of two players to score a World Cup final hat-trick, Mbappe broke his nose in the team’s opening encounter against Austria. He missed one match on account of that. Although he returned in a masked avatar in the team’s last group game, he hasn’t looked at the top of his game since.

Is it a wonder then that France, two-time Euros and two-time World Cup winners, have scored just three goals in their five matches so far in the tournament?

The good news is despite their problems up front, they have managed to churn out wins and draws and not lose even once. In their Round of 16 clash, they got the better of none other than Belgium, one of the highest-ranked teams in Europe and then in the quarterfinals, they beat 2016 winners Portugal in a penalty shootout.

All eyes will be on Mbappe tonight at the Allianz Arena in Munich. If he can recreate his 2022 World Cup form, France’s chances of a place in the final will increase manifold. No two ways!

Whoever comes out on top, rest assured, it’s going to be another lip-smacking contest following the Spain-Germany one. The absence of Pedri, who picked up a knee injury against Germany early into the contest and has since been ruled out of the rest of the tournament, should not affect Spain’s morale. They practically played the entire quarterfinal without him and won.

When all is said and done, at this moment, the Spanish team looks overwhelming favourites and only Mbappe can throw a spanner in the works.

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