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Spain ends Italy’s world record unbeaten run

Spain has ended Italy’s record unbeaten run of 37 matches, beating the European Champions 2-1 in the Nations League semi final in Milan. 

Ferran Torres scored two goals in the first half for Spain, the second coming after Leonardo Bonucci was sent off for a second yellow card three minutes before the break.

Lorenzo Pellegrini pulled one back for Italy late on as the Azzurri threatened an improbable comeback.

In the end though, Roberto Mancini’s side fell to its first loss in more than three years.

That unbeaten streak, extending all the way back to a defeat to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in September 2018, was a world record in international football. 

Spain will face either world champion France or top-ranked Belgium in the final in Milan on Sunday. The second semifinal is in Turin on Thursday.

Ferran Torres scored both Spain’s goals.(

Getty Images: Isabella Bonotto/Anadolu Agency

)

What is the UEFA Nations League?

The Nations League is a biennial tournament that replaces “meaningless” friendly matches with a competition.

Each of UEFA’s 55 member nations are split into leagues based on their recent results and ranking.

There are four leagues that are split into groups of three or four teams, who play each other home and away.

Teams can be promoted or relegated from their leagues based on their results, the idea being that teams will play competitive matches against teams of a similar standard.

Winning your group, no matter what league a team is in, gives teams a second chance at qualifying for the next European Championships, if they haven’t qualified already.

The winners of the four groups in League A, which this year was Italy, Spain, Belgium and France, play in the Nations League finals. 

Spain gains revenge for Euro 2020 exit

In Milan, Italy was in the hunt for more silverware while Spain was looking for revenge after losing to the Azzurri on penalties in the Euro 2020 semi finals.

Gavi runs with the ball at his feet, chased by Jorginho.
Gavi is Spain’s youngest ever full international player.(

Getty Images: Emilio Andreoli – UEFA

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Barcelona teenager Gavi Páez started, making the 17-year-old the youngest player to make his Spain debut.

Gavi, who only made his first-team debut for Barcelona a month ago, broke the national record set by Ángel Zubieta in 1936.

The match, played out in front of a passionate, COVID-reduced sell-out crowd of 37,000 at San Siro, was played with a high tempo from the start, with chances coming at both ends.

Federico Chiesa was the first to test the goalkeeper as Spain’s Unai Simón saved his effort from distance in the fifth minute and then denied Italy center-back Alessandro Bastoni moments later.

Bastoni then made a decisive block at the other end in the 13th to deny Mikel Oyarzabal following an attack down the left wing.

Spain had been probing that left flank and it provided the opener in the 17th minute as Oyarzabal’s cross from the left was volleyed into the bottom-right corner by Torres.

Spain almost immediately doubled its lead as Gianluigi Donnarumma fumbled Marcos Alonso’s shot, and the ball came out of his hands and off the left post before Bonucci managed to clear the rebound off the line.

It was a rare mistake from the Italy goalkeeper, who was voted the player of the tournament at Euro 2020. But his every touch was getting loudly booed by the majority of the Italy fans at San Siro, which is also the home of AC Milan — the club Donnarumma left in the offseason on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

Italy had chances to level the match and its best opportunity came 10 minutes from halftime as first Federico Bernardeschi’s shot was turned onto the post by Simón before an unmarked Lorenzo Insigne turned Emerson’s cross wide from a great position.

Italy’s chances then took a blow just before the break as Bonucci was shown a second yellow card for jumping with his elbow raised on Sergio Busquets.

Leonardo Bonucci takes off his armband and turns away as a referee holds up a red card
Leonardo Bonucci was sent off in the first half of the match.(

Getty Images: Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images

)

The Italy captain had received a first booking on the half hour, for dissent.

Spain immediately made the extra man count as it doubled its lead on the stroke of halftime, with a very similar goal to its opener. This time Torres headed Oyarzabal’s cross from the left back across goal and into the bottom left corner.

Despite being a man down, Italy continued to press and Chiesa hit the right post after a good run from the Juventus forward. The offside flag was up but it would have been a tight decision.

Oyarzabal almost got on the scoresheet himself in the 63rd but he headed a cross from Yeremy Pino wide of the post.

Donnarumma also saved a low shot from Alonso before Italy pulled one back seven minutes from time. Chiesa sprinted forward from inside his own half to the penalty area, drew Simón and then unselfishly rolled across for Pellegrini to tap into an empty net.

AP/ABC


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