Pacheco 12, Keko 34, Canales 57
Spain reached the European Under-19 Championship final after a convincing 3-1 win over England at Louis Villemer.
Liverpool’s Daniel Pacheco opened the scoring, before a delightful finish from Keko climaxed a thrilling Spainish move. John Bostock’s tremendous volley gave England a lifeline, but Sergio Canales swept home a third after a beautifully worked free-kick in the second half. While the score line might suggest a comfortable win for Spain, in truth, due to England’s endeavour off the ball and their strength and pace on it, the contest was far from one sided.
Both teams had much to prove in this semi-final. Spain’s young pretenders were keen to demonstrate that there is a legacy to follow the full team’s success in lifting the World Cup in South Africa, while England’s failure in that tournament means the onus has been put on the progression of their young talent. It appeared, at least from the early showing, that England could cut it with one Europe’s finest outfits with Ryan Donaldson’s header producing a sprawling save from Sanchez inside just two minutes.
But their early dominance was only temporary and soon their Spanish counterparts took a stranglehold upon the game, and opened the scoring after 12 minutes. Sergio Canales broke in behind England’s back four and pulled the ball back to Daniel Pacheco who slotted the ball home from 15 yards. Spain then doubled their lead with a goal becoming of a team far beyond this side’s age. Neat interplay in the final third including Canales, whose movement troubled Noel Blake’s side all afternoon, and Rodrigo allowed Keko to break through unchallenged to slide the ball past a helpless Declan Rudd.
If Spain’s second was the definition of passing brilliance, then the strike that brought England back into the contest was one that would have been accepted as world class in any era. Bostock’s 25-yard volley flew into the far corner and quickly halved the deficit.
The second half followed a similar pattern. England held their own in the early stages, before Spain showed unerring class to all but settle the result. The Spaniard’s increased their lead through a superbly worked set piece which saw Thiago Alcantara flick the ball over a stranded wall for an unmarked Canales to sweep into the corner. The remainder of the game saw Spain dominate possession, like they had from the outset. England was unable to force themselves back into the match.
Despite a score line that see’s England crash out of this year European Championships at the hands of Spain, talent is undoubtedly emerging. Much misery has been endured since the full team flattered to deceive in South Africa and with many of that squad unlikely to feature in Brazil in four years time attention has swung to the talent coming through.
The report to Fabio Capello, when he reconvenes with the FA before England embarks on their European Championship qualification campaign, should be a positive one. This Under-19 side did progress to last year’s final, while this semi-final exit has come against a Spain side that would have picked apart many full international sides. That England exit to them is no disgrace. Furthermore, other England sides have shown decent progression. The Under-17s were victorious in this year’s European Championships, and Connor Wickham, who struck the decisive winner in the final, has already been fetching interest from the Premiership’s elite. Last year in Sweden, England Under-21s reached the final of the European Championships. However just two of that squad featured for the full team in South Africa.
Whereas Germany possessed five of the team that beat England in that European Under-21 Championship final in 2009 in their World Cup team, only James Milner was present for England a year on. With transition clearly on the cards, this might be the time to put some faith in England’s young guns. Nathan Delfouneso’s pace and trickery sticks out like a sore thumb, while Thomas Cruise’s composure on the ball in midfield is clearly bred out of his time at Arsenal. Frank Nouble, who had few opportunities at Upton Park last season is also another to look out for, thriving on England’s direct style.Trevor Brooking and the rest of England’s development team need only look at their opponents this afternoon to find a football model that appears to be blossoming, but repeating such a scheme is far easier said than done.
Spain : Sanchez, Montoya, Planas, Bantra, Pulido, Romeu, Keko (c), Alcantara, Rodrigo (Rochina, 58), Canales (Koke, 69), Pacheco (Muniain, 75)
Unused substitutes: Aitor, Mallo, Mayor, Calvente,
England : Rudd, Clynr, James (c), Caulker, Baker (Bostock 18), Mellis (Noble, 59), Delfouneso, Nouble, Cruise, Thompson, Donaldson (Phillips, 71)
Unused substitutes: Nicholls, Brown, Malone