UEFA: Spanish triumph ensures bright future
The Spanish Under-21 national team was celebrating on Saturday night after defeating a dogged Switzerland team by two goals to nil in Århus , Denmark. The win sealed Spain’s third title in this tournament (the others were in 1986 and 1998) and ensured that the future, as well as the present, for Spanish football remains bright.
Both of the tournament finalists had deserved to reach this stage of the tournament with Spain and Switzerland topping their groups before getting past tough opponents in the form of Belarus and the Czech Republic respectively in the semi-finals. Switzerland hadn’t even conceded a goal before Saturday’s final whilst the Spanish were the tournament’s top scorers having scored nine goals compared to Switzerland’s seven. Both teams could also lay claim to having arguably the tournament’s two most influential players with Spain’s Adrián López and Switzerland’s Admir Mehmedi featuring prominently at the top of the goalscoring charts.
When the final got under way it took a while for both teams to settle with a slow pace dictating the mood of the final for the first half an hour. Mehmedi came closest to getting on the score sheet for Switzerland, his powerful shot midway through the first half forcing Spanish keeper David De Gea into making the first real save of the match. The deadlock, however, was broken just four minutes before the half0time break as Dídac Vilà’s perfectly weighted cross from the left was headed home by Ander Herrera from close range. The second half also proved to be frustrating for the Swiss who had no difficulty in going forward but who proved wasteful in front of goal especially midfielder Innocent Emeghara who had a great chance to equalize in the 52nd minute. The game was settled as a contest in the 81st minute when a thunderous 40 yard free-kick from Thiago Alcântara took everybody by surprise and fired its way past Swiss keeper Yann Sommer into the back of the net.
It was a shame for the Swiss who had given a good account of themselves in the tournament and whose presence in this final, as well as having won the FIFA Under-17 Championship two years ago, bodes well for the future of football in Switzerland. Meanwhile the Spanish are enjoying a fantastic run of success on the international stage after many years of underachievement. With the national team currently holding both the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship trophies, the Under-21 side becoming European champions and the Under-20 side about to participate in the FIFA U-20 World Championship in Colombia from late July this is without doubt Spanish football’s golden generation coming to fruition and it looks likely to continue for some time yet.