Lamine Yamal passes football exams and earns respect from Rodri | Spain

JUlian Nagelsmann said Germany wouldn’t kick him out of his socks, but, well, they goods put their foot in it. Adrien Rabiot promised that they would take him out of his comfort zone, put pressure on him. He looked good and there was a eulogy in the Frenchman’s words, but if he wanted to beat France, he would “have to do more”. And that’s what Lamine Yamal did ThatAnd over therewith an absurd shot that, still 16 years old but unafraid, took Spain to the final and made him the youngest ever goalscorer at a European Championship or World Cup, ahead of a guy called Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

That and everything this. At the end of the semi-final, Rodri, the Spanish midfielder who bears a resemblance to the Spanish national coach, said he took Lamine Yamal aside and congratulated him. “I’m very, very proud of him,” Rodri said.

“People hold on to the goal, that sudden peak of a 16-year-old kid. And you have to have a huge amount of quality to be able to do that, and doing it in a semi-final says something about the player he is, the incredible future he has. Very few players can do that,” Rodri insisted. “But I hold on to his defensive dedication, the support he gave his team-mates, how he closed down spaces, the oxygen he gave us. How complete his game was… and I told him that personally… hat.”

The first thing Lamine Yamal did, after 110 seconds, was to cut a long diagonal, exchange passes with Jesús Navas and run away from Rabiot and Théo Hernandez. The second was a foul: not on him, but by him, Hernandez was the victim again. So much for the spotty boy with the braces who messed it up. And the third was a glorious delivery that could have put Spain ahead with Fabián Ruiz. And all that within five minutes. The last thing he did, 90 minutes later, was to be booked for bringing down Hernandez, a final serve.

Lamine Yamal profile

In the meantime, there were three shots, 44 touches, two important passes and three tackles attempted, all completed. When he finally reached his team-mates, forced to take the long way back to the bench, he collapsed to the ground, exhausted. “Apart from the goal, he did an exceptional job; he gave everything until the last minute,” said the Spanish coach, Luis de la Fuente. “That makes him an even better player; it will make him more mature as a footballer and as a person.”

And yet Rodri was right: people would cling to the goal, remember it above all else. How could they not? “I had hoped my first goal would be a big one,” said Lamine Yamal, arriving at the bus with his player of the match award. “My little brother, the mini MVP,” Nico Williams called him; the Spanish wingers, a symbol of a new generation, a new team, of a changing society too, have become inseparable over the past month. And it was a golazo Okay. Almost identical to the one he scored a year ago. Against France. In the semi-final of the European Championship. At under-17 level.

Rodri (right) celebrates his victory over France. Photo: Xinhua/Shutterstock

It all happened so quickly, under-17, under-19, straight into the first team. He made his debut for Barcelona at 15. It was less than a year ago that there were talks with his family to ensure he would choose Spain over Morocco. Some, especially on the other side of the country’s great football divide, thought it was too soon, even absurd. He still needs his parents’ permission to travel abroad with the national team and Barcelona. A tutor has been assigned to him. At the start of the season, his club’s sports director set a goal for the season: that he would complete the fourth year at school. He did his homework and got his exam results in Donaueschingen.

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He got past that – “I can concentrate on the European Championship,” he said – and he got past this too. The pitch decides. Asked about Lamine Yamal after the match, Antoine Griezmann said: “You saw him.” Before that, during that countdown, Kylian Mbappé had come to greet him. Mbappé, the next one great player, who inherits the crown from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, is nine years older. His teammate Navas, who on Tuesday night became the oldest player to appear in a semi-final, the last man standing from the 2010 World Cup-winning team when Lamine Yamal was three, is older than his father. He had won five trophies when Lamine Yamal was born.

Lamine Yamal says it was a ‘dream’ to score in Spain’s semi-final against France – video

“The last Euro that Spain played in, I watched it with my mates in a shopping mall,” Lamine Yamal said afterwards. “Now I want to enjoy being here. I spoke to my mother and she is so happy.”

De la Fuente added: “We saw a touch of genius in a player that we have to take care of. I will give him advice. I want him to work with the same humility to improve with the same kind of attitude and maturity that he shows on the pitch. He seems a much more experienced player. I celebrate the fact that he is Spanish and in our team, and I hope we can enjoy him for years to come.”

He turns 17 on Saturday, the day before the final. “I told my mother she doesn’t have to give me anything,” he said. “I already have the final, that’s my dream and hers too.”

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