El Centrocampista

Spanish record breakers grab more European glory

Spain entered the record books at Estonia’s Lillekula Stadium tonight as Julen Lopetegui’s side beat Greece 1-0 to successfully defend their Uefa Under-19 Championship title.

In doing so, they become the most successful European side in history at that level, with an impressive sixth tournament triumph. It was a dominant if not vintage performance from la Rojita, however they certainly made things difficult for themselves – arguably a common theme throughout the competition.

Those critics of Vicente del Bosque’s senior squad at Euro 2012 will have no doubt seen similarities with Lopetegui’s side over the past fortnight, as some dominant possession has all to often lacked any real penetration.

Games against Estonia, Portugal, France and now Greece have all proven far tighter than Spain’s superiority warranted – a result of indecisive attacking and their Achilles heel of set-piece defending.

The Greeks no doubt defended well in Tallinn tonight, however Spain should really have taken control of the game long before Jese Rodriguez stroked in the only goal with 10 minutes left to play.

Paco Alcacer, a somewhat surprising inclusion in the starting line-up, was left isolated and spent lengthy periods as a virtual spectator.

Some blame must go to players such as Gerard Deulofeu, Jese and Suso who failed to provide adequate support for the centre forward. Deulofeu in particular ran into  trouble time and again and while undoubtedly a fantastic talent,  still has an infuriating side to his game – especially when it comes to decision making.

Jese meanwhile was dynamic in spells yet drifted in and out of the game. Nonetheless, the Real Madrid winger was always Spain’s most likely source of goals and so that proved the case – ironically set up by a great ball from Deulofeu.

Elsewhere on the pitch, Oliver Torres again showed why he is rated so highly at the Vicente Calderon, with the Atleti midfielder providing most of Spain’s creativity.  Jose Campaña was solid sat just behind him and Joni of Celta Vigo looked threatening throughout the game as he overlapped from the right back position.

Despite some obvious shortcomings, Spain were undoubtedly the most impressive side at the tournament and thoroughly deserved to retain their title. Whether they can now replicate this success at next year’s Under-20 World Cup in Turkey remains to be seen, however 12 months is a long time in football and these players have the potential to get even better.

Ominous words.

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