Spain and England will contest the final of the U21 European Championships after both won their semi-finals this afternoon in Israel. Spain dominated a German side who were restricted to rare attacks on the break, but survived a late scare with Iker Munian’s dismissal, while England struck twice in five minutes to come from behind to knock out France to progress.
Spain 2-1 Germany
Isco nodded in the opening goal after 36 minutes of the semi-final after a cross from Jon Aurtenetxe looped over the German ‘keeper towards the far post. Five minutes earlier, Aurtenetxe was cautioned for a challenge on Moritz Leitner that would see him suspended for the final if Spain progressed. The first-half was one-way traffic for Spain, going in at the break with a commanding 64% possession, and having ten shots to Germany’s two. Niclas Füllkrug’s equaliser just before the hour came on a fine counter attack from the Germans, who had up until that point, sat back and tried to weather the Spanish storm.
The restored parity only lasted four minutes, when Tello played a neat ball inside the area for Thiago (pictured below) who curled the ball past Bernd Leno and inside the far post. Spain were reduced top ten men with quarter of an hour to play though, when Iker Muniain clattered through the back of Patrick Herrmann and was shown a straight red by the Dutch referee. It still took Germany the best part of ten minutes to react, and when they finally started seeing enough of the ball to create chances, it was too little too late.
France 1-2 England
The French youngsters couldn’t match the exploits of the Under-20s that cruised to victory in Toulon earlier this month, as they let a lead slip against a resilient England side. Frederic Bulot fired France in front five minutes before the break following neat work down the left by Vincent Pajot to beat the offside trap. Tournament top-scorer Wilfried Zaha crashed home a header on 57 minutes from a neat free-kick routine to equalise and, spurred on by confusion in the French back four following a substitution, won a series of corners. The fourth of which was met ten yards out at the near post by Sheffield Wednesday’s Gary Madine to nod home his first international goal.
England bolstered the midfield following their second goal and stifled the French attacks that followed and set up their second final in four years at Under-21 level.
Holders Spain will play England in the UEFA U-21 Championship Final on Saturday.
Italy 1-2 Uruguay
Goals from Alvaro Pereira and Abel Hernandez fired Uruguay into a half-time 2-0 lead against Italy, the only team that came through the group stages with a 100% win record. Despite commanding 61% possession over the 90 minutes, and peppering 16 shots towards the Uruguayan goal, Italian accuracy was woeful, and an injury time consolation from Giuseppe Rossi only flattered themselves. The Uruguayan victory came at a high cost though, with Diego Forlan stretchered off in agony midway through the second-half with suspected cruciate ligament damage.
Hosts Brazil and reigning world champions Spain will contest the second semi-final tomorrow, ahead of Sunday’s final.