Spain’s captain ‘tackled’ by security guard, Yamal record, France out

A Spain fan celebrates after the match win Tuesday with a message to France in Munich, Germany. Michaela Stache/Reuters)

Spain's Lamine Yamal celebrates after the 2-1 match win over France on Tuesday in Munich, Germany. (Annegret Hilse/Reuters)

On a dramatic night at Euro 2024, Kylian Mbappe discarded his mask and set up an early (and rare) France goal, only for record-breaking 16-year-old Lamine Yamal to inspire Spain to a comeback victory that took them into Sunday’s final.

Yamal’s brilliant strike made him the youngest goalscorer in men’s major tournament history at 16 years and 362 days old, beating the previous record-holder, Pele. The Brazilian great scored at the 1958 World Cup aged 17 years and 239 days.


The evening concluded strangely for Spain, with a member of the security team accidentally taking out their captain Alvaro Morata.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands were delayed on their way to Wednesday’s semi-final by another German train problem, while England’s coach Gareth Southgate attempted to defuse a controversy over the referee selected for the game.

Here’s what happened on day 26.

Spain’s celebrations in front of their supporters at the final whistle took a worrying turn when a spectator ran on to the pitch and a member of security ran towards the players only to slip and slide into Alvaro Morata.

The Spain forward was pictured hobbling and holding his leg after the incident, seemingly in pain. He was later seen in television footage being supported by a member of staff and his team-mate Dani Vivian.

With the final on Sunday, Spain and Morata will be hoping no serious damage has been done and he will be fully fit to take part in the final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

“We’re going to wait until tomorrow,” said Spain coach Luis de la Fuente of Morata’s wellbeing.

Lamine Yamal “did not think” about the wondergoal that made him the youngest goalscorer in men’s major tournament history.

The Barcelona star curled home from long range to equalise for Spain in their semi-final meeting with France in Munich. Spain went on to win the game 2-1 to book their place in Sunday’s final.

He has surpassed the record of Pele from 1958, while Johan Vonlanthen of Switzerland was the previous record-holder for the European Championship having scored against France at Euro 2004 aged 18 years and 141 days old.

“We were in a difficult moment, nobody expected to concede a goal so early. I picked up the ball and I did not think about it,” Yamal told Spanish television.

“I tried to put it where it went, and I’m just very happy.”

“I try not to think too much,” he added. “I just try to enjoy myself and help the team to win. And if it goes for me like that, I am very happy, and with the win.”

Elena Danilova is the youngest-ever scorer in major tournaments having netted for the Russian national team at just 16 and 107 days old at the 2003 Women’s World Cup.

Yamal will turn 17 on Saturday, the day before the final.

Asked what he would like as a present, he said: “Just to win, to win, to win. My objective was to be able to celebrate my birthday here in Germany. And I am very happy to celebrate it here with the team.”

Spain are back in their first big tournament final since the golden generation which dominated from 2008 to 2012. And whoever they face in the final, they will be big favorites to add a fourth European Championship trophy in Sunday’s decider.

The current La Roja team do not play like those sides which dominated tournaments with a technically excellent but risk-free possession style that won trophies but left many observers not fully satisfied.

De la Fuente’s team do not play like anybody else in this tournament either, especially the way they get players forward — midfielders Fabian Ruiz and Dani Olmo breaking into the box — while the thrilling wide players Nico Williams and Yamal keep opposing full-backs wide as No 9 Alvaro Morata moves around the centerbacks.

It’s a risky approach, as it means opponents also have a chance to play, and also to counter-attack. It makes for great entertainment for most watching, as games open up with opponents who are more used to sitting tight and playing chess-like games finding themselves overwhelmed at the back and then having to come out fighting themselves.

Spain have also been really good this tournament at responding to adversity — Georgia’s early opener in the last 16, Germany’s late equalizer in the quarter-finals, and then tonight’s comeback after Kolo Muani’s goal had seemingly put France in control.

Still, the team’s most attractive attribute remains the energy and excitement of their two young wingers — Williams was excellent again tonight but it was Yamal who shone most brightly with his superb long-range goal and remarkable all-round performance.

What these kids, and this team, are doing in this tournament is very special. They will surely be most neutrals’ favorites on Sunday, whether they play England or the Netherlands. And they will deservedly be the bookies favorites, too — Spain have been by quite a distance the best team in this tournament so far.

The build-up to the second semi-final has been dominated by an unusual sub-plot — the appointment of a referee who has previously served a ban for his involvement in a match-fixing scandal.

Felix Zwayer, who will take charge of the game between England and the Netherlands, was suspended for six months by Germany’s football federation (DFB) in 2006, having worked as an assistant referee alongside Robert Hoyzer.

Zwayer was one of the officials who brought Hoyzer’s match-fixing plot to light and Hoyzer was banned for life. Zwayer has always denied being in on Hoyzer’s fix of Wuppertal’s game with Werder Bremen II in 2004.

He was discovered to have accepted a €300 payment from Hoyzer, however, and was suspended for six months for failing to refuse the offer and then for failing to properly report it.

England midfielder Jude Bellingham referenced the incident in a post-match interview following a Borussia Dortmund defeat to Bayern Munich in 2021, with Zwayer going on to take a two-month break from officiating.

Zwayer has taken charge of three matches at the tournament so far: the group-stage games between Italy and Albania and Portugal and Turkey before also refereeing the Netherlands’ win over Romania in the round of 16.

All three passed off without much comment but his appointment for the semi-final brought a flurry of stories in English newspapers and even a report UEFA was considering a change. UEFA for its part said Zwayer will referee the game, on the eve of which the England manager Gareth Southgate said he had no concerns.

“I think everyone knows how I deal with referees, with complete respect for every referee,” he said.

“I think there’s a right way to conduct yourself towards officials. I think that’s very important for the image of the game, so no I’m not concerned who the referee is.

“He will be at a very high standard because that’s the way UEFA make those decisions and monitor the games that are played during the tournament. For me, it’s not even a consideration.”

Well, there’s only two games to go, starting with the Netherlands against England, and then the winner plays Spain in Sunday’s final.

Wednesday: SemifinalsNetherlands v England, 9 a.m. HST.

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