Italy, Spain set to clash in Under-21 Final

By
June 16, 2013 02:21

Italy takes it down to the wire with 78th minute goal against the Netherlands; Spain outclasses Norway in semifinals.

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Italy_EuroU21_370

Italy_EuroU21_370. (photo credit: Reuters)

Defending-champion Spain produced yet another dominant performance on Saturday night to defeat Norway 3-0 and advance to the European Under-21 Championship final where it will face Italy, which booked its ticket for Tuesday’s showdown at Teddy Stadium with a tight 1-0 victory over the Netherlands.

Spain entered the tournament as a firm favorite and has fully lived up to its billing so far, improving its total goal difference in the championship to 8-0 with Saturday’s win in Netanya.

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The Netherlands enjoyed the lion’s share of possession against Italy in Petah Tikva, but failed to break down the Azzurrini’s defense. Italy rarely broke forward, but it made the most of its chance when it finally arrived in the 78th minute, with Liverpool striker Fabio Borini netting the winner with a clinical finish.

The final in Jerusalem will be a repeat of the Euro 2012 title match, won 4-0 by the Spaniards.

Spain controlled the first semi of the evening from the first whistle, but it had to wait until first-half stoppage time to take the lead, with Rodrigo scoring his 15th goal in 15 appearances for the Under-21 side.

Despite being outplayed throughout the match, Norway’s Stefan Strandberg squandered a golden opportunity to equalize four minutes from time, blazing over from just five meters out.

Spain secured the win a minute later thanks to a sensational Isco goal, with Alvaro Morata scoring deep into added time to take his tally for the tournament to four goals in four matches and cap another impressive performance.

“It was a very difficult game against a very good team, even if it did finish 3-0,” said Spain coach Julen Lopetegui. “In the final it will be very difficult – hopefully we can score earlier. It is all about the team, not individuals. The team worked as one unit.”

Spain and Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcántara is confident of another triumph after also being part of the Under- 21 team which lifted the trophy in Denmark two years ago.

“I’ve been saying since the first day that this is a very complete team,” he said. “In every area of the pitch we’re very well set up and focused and we have to keep this going to become champions again.”


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