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Yamal comes of age with wonder goal to fire Spain into Euro 2024 final

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/spain/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Spain;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Spain</a>'s <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/players/3966436/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Lamine Yamal;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Lamine Yamal</a> (R) became the youngest goalscorer in Euros history as he helped eliminate <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/france/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:France;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">France</a> in the semi-finals (MIGUEL MEDINA)

Lamine Yamal has dazzled at Euro 2024 but it was on Tuesday in Munich he came of age with a sensational strike against France to fire Spain into the final with a 2-1 victory.

After France started well and took the lead through Randal Kolo Muani, the 16-year-old produced a bolt from the blue to stun Les Bleus, becoming the youngest goalscorer in the tournament's history.

Yamal's dramatic intervention after 21 minutes rocked Didier Deschamps' side and Dani Olmo fired home the decisive second four minutes later.

The Barcelona winger created goals for team-mates in the wins over Croatia, Georgia and Germany but had not managed to find the net himself until now.

"We were a goal down and I just got the ball -- I didn't think about it much and then shot at goal," player of the match Yamal told ZDF.

"I'm not thinking much about (only being 16), I'm just enjoying it and I'm proud to be in the final."

The forward, who made his Barcelona debut at 15 in the 2022-23 campaign, has improved with virtually every appearance and become a vital figure for his team.

With Spain it is a similar story, Yamal already La Roja's key player despite having made just 13 appearances for his country.

The last of those was on a humid night in Bavaria where he made history and scored arguably the goal of the tournament.

"We have seen a genius, the work of a genius," said delighted Spain coach Luis de la Fuente.

"We are lucky he is Spanish and we can enjoy him for many years."

- Messi's magic touch? -

Yamal's game is bright but not excessive, with his tricks designed to open up space for himself rather than to show off. He largely makes sensible decisions but also fires up the crowd with showstopping dribbles.

In that regard he is similar to a player he looked up to as a child, former Barcelona great Lionel Messi.

Last week a barely-believable photo emerged of the Argentina forward bathing a baby Yamal, as part of a charity calendar Barcelona players were pictured in, back in 2007.

"The beginning of two legends," wrote Yamal's father Mounir Nasraoui on Instagram, sharing the photo.

Spain's 38-year-old right-back Jesus Navas, who started against France, is older than Mounir.

France midfielder Adrien Rabiot is 29 but lacked the wisdom not to challenge a record-breaking player seemingly undaunted by any challenge he faces.

"(We have to) show him that to play in a Euros final, he will have to do much more than what he has done so far," said Rabiot before the game.

Yamal posted a graphic with the caption "Move in silence, only speak when it is time to say checkmate" on Instagram, hours before doing just that by eliminating France on the pitch.

For his stunning goal Yamal's tricky footwork and agility helped him lose Rabiot and earned him the space to shoot.

The youngster nearly got another in similar fashion in the second half, shaking free of Theo Hernandez and whipping narrowly over.

If there is one area he has to improve in, it is becoming more lethal in front of goal but that will surely come.

The winger picked up a booking in the final stages by pulling back Hernandez to stop the French defender breaking, a cynical but effective decision and another example of his maturity beyond his years.

"I'm very proud of Lamine, people will talk about the goal, the stellar appearance of this 16-year-old kid, the future awaiting him is huge, but I congratulated him for his defensive commitment, such a complete game, constantly helping out," said midfielder Rodri.

Yamal will turn 17 on July 13, the day before the final in Berlin against England or the Netherlands. What does he want for a present?

"To win, to win, to win," said Yamal. "It was my objective, to reach my birthday still in Germany."

rbs/jc