UEFA Nations League: Gavi makes history as Spain end Italy’s 37-game unbeaten streak to reach final

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Italy’s magnificent unbeaten run has ended at 37 after Spain’s 2-1 victory in the UEFA Nations League final four in Milan on Wednesday. Ferran Torres scored twice in the first half for La Roja as Leonardo Bonucci saw red for the Azzurri and the hosts could only manage one consolation goal through Lorenzo Pellegrini at San Siro. 

Roberto Mancini’s Euro champions were unable to repeat their summer feat when they eliminated Luis Enrique’s men in the semifinals and will now contest the third-place playoff with one of Belgium and France.

Five takeaways.

1. 37 and out

While it has now been ended, Italy’s run was great while it lasted and leaves Mancini in an uncommon position of now having to pick his players up after a competitive defeat for the first time since 2018. It would be untrue to say that a setback had not been coming based on recent World Cup qualifying results, but to miss the opportunity to win a second piece of silverware in a year — and on home soil — will hurt the Italians for some time.

2. Fantastic Ferran

Spain’s two-goal hero on the night is emerging as one of the key figures under Enrique and the Manchester City man’s brace was simply further confirmation that he is now La Roja’s main goal threat. Of course, there is also the absent Alvaro Morata, but he has had more than enough chance to prove himself as reliable as the 21-year-old has been so far at senior level as is still yet to convince.

3. Overbooked Bonucci

Italy’s job was not made an easier by their captain’s double yellow card first half dismissal and although the 34-year-old’s second has sparked debate, it was the last thing that Mancini’s side needed up against it. One regular question during the Euros was how much longer Bonucci and Chiellini can continue to be immaculate at the highest level and this is already evidence to suggest that the drop-off could come sooner than expected.

4. Roja revolution

Barcelona’s teen midfielder Gavi put together an impressive debut and became the country’s youngest-ever player at 17 years and 62 days old. Spain’s rebirth under Enrique continues apace and Torres as well as Mikel Oyarzabal are just two of the key components in this new-look side which could build on their Euro showing ahead of the 2022 World Cup and give either Belgium or France a tough test. A Nations League title would be a fine reward for the progress made in recent years.

5. Donnarumma disgust

The Paris Saint-Germain man was given a rough ride from start to finish and endured a thoroughly miserable return to Milan with two goals conceded on top of the hot reception he received for leaving AC Milan this summer. Expect the 22-year-old to bounce back, but it has been a mixed start to life as a Euro champion with his timeshare with Keylor Navas on top of this vilification. 

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