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Spain advances to the European soccer championship final after beating France

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Spain and France share a border and a soccer rivalry. Their Euro 2024 semifinal match yesterday was a thriller. Miguel Macias reports from Seville.

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: OK. Allow me to build up to the magical moment that changed the course of the semifinal at the Euro 2024. On one side, there was France, the domineering team that won the World Cup in 2018 and was a runner-up in 2022. This year, however, France was not quite finding itself in the field, making it to the semifinal of the tournament through a series of less-than-brilliant games.

On the other side, Spain, a team that has struggled for the past decade - until now, it seems. The brand-new generation of players has been playing an exciting game at this Euro, beating powerful teams such as Italy, Croatia and Germany.

France, however, did show up for this game. And not only that, it hit first and hit early, thanks to a perfect pass from perhaps the most celebrated player in the world today, Kylian Mbappe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE WILSON: Spinning it out towards Mbappe, some suspicion of handball, and...

(CHEERING)

WILSON: ...That's a brilliant start for France. Kolo Muani...

MACIAS: But then, a kid named Lamine Yamal - all of 16 years old - showed up to make an entire nation dream and catch the attention of the world with a precision long shot past defenders and the goalkeeper.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILSON: And what a goal that was.

(CHEERING)

WILSON: Lamine Yamal.

MACIAS: The rest of the game is history. Spain scored again a few minutes later. A fantastic soccer game ensued. But at the end, the score remained Spain 2, France 1. And Yamal, now the youngest player in the history of the Euro to score the goal, has proven what pretty much everyone in Spain already knew - he's one of a kind.

But Yamal represents many things for Spain. The son of immigrant parents - his father from Morocco and his mother from Equatorial Guinea - Yamal grew up in a working-class neighborhood in the town of Mataro near Barcelona. He celebrates his goals by signaling his zip code with his hands - 304. Both Yamal and his teammate Nico Williams, who's Black, have come to represent the increasing diversity of a country where the youth is no longer overwhelmingly white.

As for Yamal's professional future, Barcelona FC is known for identifying talent early, and they've done it again, signing the 16-year-old last year with a contract that goes until 2026. They may be wishing they signed him for longer after the game yesterday.

For NPR News, I'm Miguel Macias in Seville, Spain.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIBEY AND BENNYKAAY'S "OVERSLEPT (GUITAR ONLY)")

PFEIFFER: Those clips are courtesy of FOX Soccer. Spain will now face the winner of today's game between England and the Netherlands.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

As for the Copa America hosted here in the United States, Lionel Messi's Argentina topped Canada yesterday in one semifinal, while Uruguay and Colombia play in the other semifinal today.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIBEY AND BENNYKAAY'S "OVERSLEPT (GUITAR ONLY)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Miguel Macias
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.