European Under-21 Championships – Group B Focus: Isco eager to fire Spain to latter stages

As the group stages of this year’s European Under-21 Championships comes to an end in Israel, the Netherlands and Spain are both eyeing top spot in Group B as they clash on Wednesday. The Dutch, although in fine form themselves, will have to keep a lid on the free running Isco, who is relishing his role in the Spanish team as it allows him to: “Move where I want.

Isco has played 179 minutes so far in this tournament and while he has yet to hit the back of the net himself, he has been at the heart of every Spanish attacking move. However, the humble attacking midfielder has praised his manager Julen Lupetegui for allowing him to express himself on the field. “I am very lucky that Julen gives me total freedom to go where I like on the pitch,” Isco said.

However, despite Isco’s midfield dominance and electric running his side have only managed two goals throughout the tournament. His manager, Lupetegui, said after Sunday’s win against Germany that his side were ‘spectacular’ although they only managed another one-goal success despite again dominating the statistics sheets.

In total, Spain hammered 11 shots at the German goal on Sunday, but just three were on target. In their first game of the tournament against Russia, Spain also demonstrated their wastefulness in front of goal, striking 13 shots, with only four hitting the target. Both games resulted in 1-0 successes for Lupetegui’s side. However Isco believes it doesn’t matter how they break the deadlock as long as they do.

It is taking us a bit of effort to close out games,” Isco said. “The style we play has lead to us creating a lot of chances and we could probably be finishing off chances and matches sooner than we are, it is clear that the goal is eluding us a little.

Having said that, the most important thing is that we have broken through in these games, in one way or another, and now we are through to the semi-finals.

Isco and his Spanish cohorts will need to improve their finishing though as they prepare for a Netherlands team that has found goals easy to come by. Dutch manager Cor Pot recently praised his side’s strength in depth as they breezed past Russia on Sunday. Captain Leroy Fer has been leading from the front with two goals in as many appearances for his side; Georginio Wijnaldum also has two from two for the free-scoring Jong Oranje.

While Isco will be hoping that his boundless role in the Spanish midfield will help his side to a third win of the competition and a group winner’s spot, Fer and his men will also be eyeing a table topping win.

Wednesday will also see a game being played with no such success story at the end, but more for international pride than anything else as Germany and Russia round off their tournaments. Both sides have been unable to notch any points thus far and so either camp will be hoping that they can find that illusive win when they face each other in Netanya.

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