El Centrocampista

Spain dominate, delight and frustrate in equal measure

So Spain have eased their way into the Semi-Final of the Uefa Under 19 Championship in Estonia, after a 2-0 win over the hosts saw them top Group A and guarantee their spot in next year’s Fifa Under 20 World Cup in Turkey in the process.

The victory over Estonia was little more than Julen Lopetegui’s youngsters deserved after a game in which they dominated from start to finish, yet there was also a fair amount of frustration on the face of the Basque coach as he watched his team fail to find a clinical edge to finish off a mediocre side that had just one shot on goal throughout the game.

Indeed Estonia set their defensive stall out from the outset and it soon became apparent their main objective was to protect their goal rather than threaten their opponents – although in fairness to Arno Pijpers, having conceded seven goals already in the tournament, it was maybe unstandable the Dutchman wanted to protect his young side to any further humiliation.

This negativity lead to an overwhelming domination of the ball from the Spanish, yet they struggled to make the final breakthrough when arriving in the final third of the field.

The enigmatic Gerard Deulofeu showcased the best and worse of his footballing repertoire as he beat his marker time and again, only to fail in the final decision of when to release the ball.

The Barca starlet is still young of course and questionable decision-making is something that is sometimes endemic in players of his calibre, however one has to feel the game would have been over as a contest long before Paco Alcacer struck a thunderous 30-yard effort three minutes from time had Deulofeu had shown more awareness.

It has to be noted however that the Catalan youngster set Manchester City’s Denis Suarez up for the opener after some good work down the right flank just past the half hour mark.

The encounter saw sustained pressure from la Rojita, nevertheless they struggled to break down the hosts who kept a rigid 4-5-1 set up and there was increased frustration on the Spanish bench as attack after attack broke down at the final stage.

It was clear the side missed the tournament’s leading goalscorer Jese Rodriguez and his replacement Paco Alcacer did little to suggest he will keep the Real Madrid striker out of the side when he returns from suspension.

Paco was a revelation at the 2011 tournament, however there was little of the clinical finishing that made him top scorer in Romania last summer – apart from the stunning effort in the closing stages of course.

Nonetheless, there were many positives for Spain – not least the continued impressive display of 16-year-old right-back Alejandro Grimaldo. The la Masia graduate again showed why he is touted as a future star at the Camp Nou and gave a performance that again belied the fact he is the youngest player in the squad.

Liverpool’s Suso again showed flashes of brilliance and Juanmi lead by example as the Malaga man earned his 21st cap at this level.

The biggest positive of course is the fact that Spain safely booked their passage into the Semi-Finals where they will now face France on Thursday.

Maybe we are looking for perfection, and maybe that is unrealistic and indeed unfair, however when a squad has the infrastructure and ability that Spain has, who can blame us?

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