With Messi-style dribbling and skills, Lamine Yamal thrills in latest Spain win at Euro 2024

Thu, Jun 20, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

With Messi-style dribbling and skills, Lamine Yamal thrills in latest Spain win at Euro 2024

GELSEKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) - At times, it was like watching Lionel Messi.

How about that for a compliment for Lamine Yamal after another thrilling performance at the European Championship that showed just why there is such a buzz around this 16-year-old phenom with blond tinges in his dark hair and magic in his boots.

One moment stood out, in particular, in Spain's 1-0 win over Italy on Thursday.

It was the middle of the first half and Yamal had just started to put on a show - eliciting some "ooohs" and "ahhhs" from a crowd containing Spain's King Felipe VI - when the Barcelona youngster found himself inside off his right wing and with the ball at his feet.

Suddenly, he exploded into life, slaloming through the attempted tackles of two would-be challengers - Federico Dimarco and then Jorginho - while keeping the ball stuck to his left foot. As another tackle came in, he managed to play the ball through to Alvaro Morata to get a shot away.

It really could have been Messi.

As it could when he cut back off his wing and lifted the ball deftly over Davide Frattesi's sprawling tackle.

Or when he produced a double drag-back to leave two Italians grasping at thin air.

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Or when he smashed a fierce left-footed shot that curled slightly and kissed the outside of the post around the hour mark.

Yamal was substituted in the 71st minute to applause from Spain's fans and no doubt sighs of relief from their Italian counterparts.

This was his ninth and easily biggest match in the red shirt of Spain and he didn't disappoint.

It's worth repeating that this kid - born near Barcelona to a mother from Equatorial Guinea and a father from Morocco - doesn't turn 17 until July 13, the day before the Euro 2024 final.

The youngest player to debut (at 15 years, 9 months and 16 days) and score in the Spanish league, the youngest player to start in the Champions League and the youngest to score for Spain's national team, Yamal earned the distinction of becoming the youngest player to feature at a European Championship in Spain's 3-0 win over Croatia on Saturday.

He entered the Veltins Arena ahead of the Italy match wearing large earphones and flicking through his cell phone. It was the biggest game of the tournament so far and he clearly wasn't fazed.

This, after all, is a player doing remarkable things at a remarkable age. Heck, he has a buyout clause of 1 billion euros at Barcelona.

Yamal wasn't perfect Thursday. He got an attempted backheel all wrong just before he came off. Indeed, there was a case to say Nico Williams, the 21-year-old on Spain's left wing, was more of a danger to Italy, with Yamal typically keeping it more simple and not always going for the spectacular.

But one thing was for sure: the biggest frisson of excitement among the spectators came when Yamal had the ball.

Just like with Messi at the last World Cup in Qatar.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

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