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Alonso, Azpilicueta start but France win UEFA Nations League on controversial goal

What is offside?

Spain v France – UEFA Nations League 2021 Final Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

After an impressive 2-1 win over Italy in the semifinal on Wednesday, Spain took on defending World Champions France in the UEFA Nations League final on Sunday night in Milan. Head coach Luis Enrique made just two changes, choosing Rodri ahead of Koke in midfield and picking Eric García instead of Pau Torres in central defense. That latter decision would prove fateful.

Both César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso kept their places from the semifinal, and both played the full match, which was scoreless until the 64th minute when Mikel Oyarzábal opened the scoring after some rather poor defending from Dayot Upamecano. But France weren’t behind for long as Karim Benzema produced a spectacular finish to tie things up.

And then came the controversy, as Kylian Mbappé scored what looked like a clear offside goal, but which was deemed legal as the aforementioned Eric Garía tried to play the ball (deliberately) but was only able to get a touch to it.

That Mbappé was offside when the ball was played by his teammate thus didn’t matter (offside isn’t called at that time anymore, but only later), and neither did the fact that the only reason Eric García played the ball in such a fashion was because of Mbappé’s presence. That doesn’t matter given the way the rules are written these days (and have been for a while), and so the goal was allowed to stand. (If Eric García had done nothing, Mbappé would’ve been offside, which is a clear bit of silliness and oversight in the current rules and very much against the spirit of the game.)

Earlier in the day, Italy got back to their winning ways after beating Belgium 2-1 in the third-place game. Lukaku did not play as he had returned to Chelsea with muscle fatigue. Emerson started for the Azzurri while Jorginho came on as a substitute for the final 20 minutes.