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Spain beats France 2-1 to reach Euro 2024 final. Yamal sets the mark as youngest-ever scorer

MUNICH — (AP) — After seeing off another one of the pre-tournament favorites to reach the Euro 2024 final, Spain coach Luis de la Fuente has warned England or the Netherlands that his team can still improve.

Spain reached the European Championship decider with a 2-1 victory over France on Tuesday, with 16-year-old Lamine Yamal becoming the youngest-ever scorer at the continental tournament.

France took an early lead when Randal Kolo Muani headed in a cross from Kylian Mbappé, who played without a mask, before Yamal's moment of brilliance in the 21st minute. Dani Olmo scored the clincher four minutes later.

“We were in a difficult stretch after not expecting to concede so early. I just took the ball and wanted to put it right there. I am very happy," Yamal said.

“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.”

Spain, which is chasing a record fourth European Championship title, will play England or the Netherlands in the final on Sunday in Berlin — the day after Yamal's 17th birthday.

“We knew they were a great team, and they proved it again tonight," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "Even though we were fortunate to open the scoring, Spain made things difficult for us.

"They were superior in terms of control and technique. The team that gave the best impression was Spain. So they deserve to win tonight.”

Spain has been the best performing team of Euro 2024. It is the only team to have won all its matches and has scored 13 times, equaling a Spanish record for most goals at a European Championship and only one behind the overall record set by France in 1984.

“I’m sure the final will be totally different, against opponents who will demand the best from us,” De la Fuente said. “Even though it might sound difficult, there is room for improvement.”

Spain will find out its next opponent when England plays the Netherlands in the second semifinal at Dortmund on Wednesday.

There was surprise in Munich when Mbappé went onto the field without the mask he has been wearing since sustaining a broken nose in France’s opening group game at Euro 2024.

Mbappé had been complaining the mask was impeding him, and ditching it appeared to have an immediate effect as he created the game’s opening goal in the ninth minute with a cross to the back post that was headed in by Randal Kolo Muani.

That was the first goal France had scored at Euro 2024 that wasn’t a penalty or an own-goal. Fortunately for Les Bleus they had also been exceptional at the back, allowing just one goal, a retaken penalty by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski in the group stage.

But there was no stopping Yamal’s stunning equalizer in the 21st minute as he became the youngest player ever to score at a men’s European Championship when he curled the ball past Mike Maignan and in off the left post from 25 yards.

Spain turned the match around completely four minutes later when Olmo’s goal-bound shot was turned into the net by France defender Jules Koundé. It was originally adjudged by UEFA to have been an own-goal but was later awarded to Olmo.

“It is incredible what the team is doing. We deserve to be in the final, one step from glory,” Olmo said. “Whether it is my goal, or Koundé’s, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we are in the final."

France dominated possession in the second half but couldn’t make it count.

Théo Hernández should have done better when he blazed a late chance over the bar, and Mbappé did similar with four minutes remaining.

Spain could have been further ahead between those chances as another powerful strike from Yamal flew narrowly over the crossbar.

___ The lead and headline of this story has been corrected to show that Yamal is the youngest player to score in the European Championship, but not in all major international tournaments.

___

AP writers Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, and Tom Nouvian in Paris contributed to this report.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

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