It was time for revenge against the Euro Champions for a Spanish unit that is still young but bustling with energy and motivation. The opportunity came in the semifinal of the UEFA Nations League. The Italians failed to reach the final as young Spain would feature in the final.

Ferran Torres bagged a brace to help Spain hold off a late charge from 10-man Italy in a 1-2 victory in the semi-finals of the 2021 Nations League finals on Wednesday night at the San Siro in Milan, Italy.

The Manchester City man hooked up twice with Mikel Oyarzabal in the first half to give Spain a comfortable two-goal advantage at the break. They were also helped by a sending off for Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci, however, the reigning European champions showed their pedigree and fought back late through a goal from Lorenzo Pellegrini to make it a nervy finish for the visitors.

Spain boss Luis Enrique surprised everyone by giving 17-year-old Gavi his international debut, and the youngster provided a lift in midfield, helping Spain get off to a good start. La Roja took the lead when Ferran Torres guided home a pinpoint cross from the left-wing from Oyarzabal to hand Spain a 0-1 advantage.

Moments later it was almost 0-2, as a Marcos Alonso shot was fumbled by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and was about to cross the line, only for Bonucci to make a last-gasp clearance.

Italy had it all there to equalise shortly after the hour-mark, first through Federico Bernardeschi, whose effort was saved by Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon, and then a minute later from Lorenzo Insigne, who sprayed his shot wide with just Simon to beat.

The breaks continued to go Spain’s way, as a foolish elbow from Bonucci on Sergio Busquets resulted in a second yellow for the veteran Italian defender, leaving the Azzurri with 10 men with more than a half of football remaining.

Luis Enrique’s men were happy to take advantage and another link-up between Oyarzabal and Ferran Torres saw the latter head in a cross from the former for a 0-2 Spain lead.

The Asturian boss was forced to go to his bench early in the second half, with goal-scorer Ferran Torres leaving with a slight injury and replaced by Yeremi Pino.

Italy brought more energy to the fight to start the second half, but it was Spain coming the closest to scoring next when Yeremi’s floated-in cross reached Oyarzabal, who headed wide of goal.

On the whole, Spain were largely content to simply possess the ball and not try too hard at padding their lead, and their casual play nearly gifted what would have been a massive goal for the Italians had they not flubbed the chance off a Sergio Busquets turnover.

Back to the bench went Luis Enrique for fresh legs, with Mikel Merino for Koke and Bryan Gil for Pablo Sarabia, and it was nearly three for Spain when Yeremi crossed for Marcos Alonso, but Donnarumma did well to get low and make the save.

Spain would rue the misses, as Italy suddenly grabbed a goal in the late stages when a Spain corner kick led to an Italy counter-attack led by Chiesa, who fed Pellegrini and it was an easy sweep into the net to cut Spain lead to 1-2.

In the end, though, Spain would hang on to punch their ticket to Sunday’s final, where they will face either Belgium or France.

One should not question either Luis Enrique’s decisions or his press conference remarks, as what the Spain boss has achieved with this set of players is worthy of praise and not criticism.

Luis Enrique led La Roja to the 2020 European Championship semi-finals and the Nations League final by beating Italy in Milan, where they hadn’t lost an official match since 1925.


Spain cruised past Italy with Gavi in the starting XI, Marcos Alonso at left-back, two left-footed centre-backs and without a natural striker. So, whatever you say, Luis Enrique takes the risk and produce results.

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