The first semi-final of the European Under-21 Championships sees relative underdogs Norway attempt to halt to Spain’s progression. The Spaniards finished top of Group B with three wins from three and no goals conceded. Tournament surprise package Norway have just one win to their name.
However, while Spain are brimming with attacking talent, an area that hasn’t seen much acclaim is their backline and David De Gea. The 22-year-old goalkeeper has played every minute of his side’s tournament so far and has kept three consecutive clean sheets in the competition. After his latest display against the Netherlands manager Julen Lopetegui hailed him as “sensational.”
De Gea signed for United in the summer of 2011 for a world record fee for a goalkeeper, as a replacement for the experienced Edwin van der Sar. After a torrid start to life in the English league, the young stopper has gone on to cement his place as United’s No.1, making 57 appearances for the Old Trafford outfit.
In the aftermath of the Netherlands game on Wednesday, Lupetegui went on to say: “We try to keep the ball and defend and attack with it, and also to get the ball back when we lose it. The whole team has a brilliant attitude when we don’t have the ball, but I am only moderately happy as the next game will be completely different.”
De Gea has performed brilliantly in the tournament to have kept his perfect record intact. However, the stats would suggest that the ‘keeper has had some brilliant support from his defence, as throughout the competition Spain’s opposition have only been able to muster six shots on target. Four of these attempts came courtesy of the Netherlands in their last outing.
But the Spanish defenders could have their work cut out for them in the semi-final as they face off against a Norway team that have risen to every challenge they have been set so far. The Scandinavians have performed admirably throughout the tournament, beating England, then coming back to hold on for a draw against Israel with 10 men. They also came within seconds of beating Italy.
De Gea and his Spanish cohorts will hope to continue their superb run of form against the Norway, while Norway will look to dig deep again against the tournament favourites and overturn the odds once more. To do that, they’ll have to get past De Gea, but that’s easier said than done.
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