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UEFA Nations League semi-final preview

Hosts Italy meet Spain and Belgium take on France in the 2021 UEFA Nations League semi-finals: get the background on the games.

Italy and Spain last met at UEFA EURO 2016
Italy and Spain last met at UEFA EURO 2016 Icon Sport via Getty Images

Hosts Italy meet Spain and Belgium take on France in the UEFA Nations League finals in October 2021.

Nations League finals in-depth

Italy vs Spain

Wednesday 6 October, 20:45 CET: San Siro, Milan

EURO 2012 final highlights: Spain 4-0 Italy
EURO 2012 final highlights: Spain 4-0 Italy

Previous meetings: Italy's record in 33 encounters with Spain is W9 D12 L12, with their most recent meeting coming at UEFA EURO 2016, where the Azzurri beat Spain 2-0 in Saint-Denis in the round of 16. That was some consolation for Spain's 4-0 win in the final of UEFA EURO 2012 in Kyiv.


Group A1 winners: W3 D3 L0 F7 A2
Top scorer: Domenico Berardi (2)

Mancini on Italy's Spain challenge
Mancini on Italy's Spain challenge

: Italy 1-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
07/09: Netherlands 0-1 Italy
11/10: Poland 0-0 Italy
14/10: Italy 1-1 Netherlands
15/11: Italy 2-0 Poland
18/11: Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-2 Italy

Coach: Roberto Mancini
One of the best forwards of his generation, though never that lucky with the Azzurri, Mancini is eager to sparkle as an international coach after winning club trophies in Italy, England and Turkey.

"Spain are a great team. They have made some changes in terms of their squad, but they can count on an incredible pool of players in this moment, in the past few years. So they are rebuilding the team and they are doing it well, just like us."

Key player: Marco Verratti
Like his coach, the midfielder is yet to replicate his club form with the national team. Mancini's possession-based football, however, seems just perfect for the Paris man.

One to watch: Gianluigi Donnarumma
At 21, goalkeeper Donnarumma is already a veteran, having been playing first-team football for years, but he has big gloves to fill as he looks to replace Gianluigi Buffon.


Watch every Spain goal on the road to the final four
Watch every Spain goal on the road to the final four

Group A4 winners: W3 D2 L1 F13 A3
Top scorer: Ferrán Torres (4)

03/09: Germany 1-1 Spain
06/09: Spain 4-0 Ukraine
10/10: Spain 1-0 Switzerland
13/10: Ukraine 1-0 Spain
14/11: Switzerland 1-1 Spain
17/11: Spain 6-0 Germany

Coach: Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique stepped down in June 2019 for personal reasons but returned to his post five months later in November after UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying had concluded. He previously guided Barcelona to UEFA Champions League glory in 2015.

"What’s certain is that we and Italy have followed a similar, parallel path, in the sense that we are energising the national teams with young players and, of course, by improving our styles."

Key player: Sergio Ramos
The glue that holds the defence together, the most-capped European player of all time also features among their top ten goalscorers, partly after pulling rank on penalty duty.

One to watch: Ansu Fati
The Barcelona forward broke a 95-year-old record when he became Spain's youngest scorer, registering in the 4-0 victory over Ukraine aged 17 years and 311 days.

Belgium vs France
Thursday 7 October, 20:45 CET: Juventus Stadium, Turin

Previous meetings: Belgium have had slightly the better of their 74 meetings with neighbours France to date: W30 D19 L25. The sides last met in the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals, Les Bleus prevailing 1-0 en route to becoming world champions.


Watch every Belgium goal on the road to the final four
Watch every Belgium goal on the road to the final four

Group A2 winners: W5 D0 L1 F16 A6
Top scorer: Romelu Lukaku (5)

05/09: Denmark 0-2 Belgium
08/09: Belgium 5-1 Iceland
11/10: England 2-1 Belgium
14/10: Iceland 1-2 Belgium
15/11: Belgium 2-0 England
18/11: Belgium 4-2 Denmark

Nations League finals: Lukaku v Mbappé
Nations League finals: Lukaku v Mbappé

Coach: Roberto Martínez
A Spanish midfielder who carved out a niche in English football, Martínez has been in charge of Belgium since 2016.

"It will be a fantastic game, but I think it has been such a successful campaign in the Nations League that whoever you were going to meet, it was going to be that sort of big-game feeling."

Key player: Kevin De Bruyne
The 2019/20 UEFA Champions League midfielder of the season continues to flourish for club and country. Martínez's creative heartbeat.

One to watch: Youri Tielemans
A relatively youthful 23 in a side packed with established talent, Leicester's versatile midfielder has a venomous shot from distance, not to mention great distribution.


Watch every France goal on the road to the final four
Watch every France goal on the road to the final four

Group A3 winners: W5 D1 L0 F12 A5
Top scorer: Olivier Giroud (3)

05/09: Sweden 0-1 France
08/09: France 4-2 Croatia
11/10: France 0-0 Portugal
14/10: Croatia 1-2 France
14/11: Portugal 0-1 France
17/11: France 4-2 Sweden 

Deschamps looks ahead to 'fantastic' Belgium clash
Deschamps looks ahead to 'fantastic' Belgium clash

Coach: Didier Deschamps
Deschamps captained Les Bleus to victory at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000. France boss since 2012, he led them to World Cup glory in 2018 and can secure the second international double of his career at EURO 2020.

"On a personal level, I’m really happy to be playing this game in Turin, in a stadium that I know well and where I have a lot of friends and acquaintances. It’ll be a great game which will be hopefully played with a great atmosphere in a stadium full of supporters."

Key player: Antoine Griezmann
The influence of EURO 2016's best player and top scorer on the team has deepened with time; he also scored three and set up seven in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying, and has since overtaken Zinédine Zidane in France's all-time top scorer ranking.

Martínez hoping for France revenge
Martínez hoping for France revenge

One to watch: Clément Lenglet
The centre-back has settled with minimal fuss at Barcelona and, having only made his senior France debut in June 2019, now looks to be first choice alongside Raphaël Varane at the heart of Deschamps' defence.

Final fixtures

Match for third place
Sunday 10 October: Juventus Stadium, Turin (15:00 CET)

Sunday 10 October: San Siro, Milan (20:45 CET)