European Champions Italy were beaten for the first time in 38 games last night, as Spain pulled off the 2-1 upset victory in the UEFA Nations League semifinal, putting an end to the record streak that began almost exactly three years ago, in October 2018. It was a rematch of the Euro semifinal, which Italy won on penalties. (In the process, Spain have also become the “Unofficial Football World Champions” by the way. Celebrations were non-existent.)
Playing in front of a (mostly) friendly home crowd at the San Siro in Milan did not help — they did boo Gianluigi Donnarumma relentlessly after he left AC Milan for PSG in the summer — as the Azzurri gave up two goals to Ferran Torres and saw captain Leonardo Bonucci sent off for two first-half yellow cards.
Three of the four starting full backs in the game were Chelsea players, with Emerson on the left for Italy and both César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso getting the nod from Spain boss Luis Enrique. They all played the full 90. Jorginho also started, but was removed just past the hour-mark, and replaced by Lorenzo Pellegrini who grabbed a late consolation.
Also noteworthy was the start given to 17-year-old Gavi, becoming the youngest ever player in Spanish national team history — beating a record that had stood for 85 years!
The match was practically over before the half however, with Alonso, just in his fourth cap, instrumental in both Spanish goals, flowing team moves as they were. Marcos picked up the secondary assist on the first and started the move for the second (the tertiary assist!).
Ironically, Alonso was playing his first match for Spain since Italy’s record streak had started. The 30-year-old had last featured for his national team back in October 2018 as well. He just might feature again in Sunday’s final, where they will take on the winners of Belgium and France!