Norway face Spain in the first semi-final of the tournament on Saturday afternoon in Netanya, with both teams impressing in the competition so far. This will be the first meeting of the two sides in Under-21 history, with fireworks expected from two teams that did not struggle to find the net in the group stages.
Another final beckons for La Rojita, and coach Julen Lopetegui will be hoping his Spanish youngsters can continue their impressive showing in the competition and book their place in the final in an attempt to retain the championship that they won in Denmark in 2011. Spain go into their European Under-21 Championship semifinal against Norway on Saturday as firm favorites to reach the final for the second successive tournament. Julen Lopetegui’s side are currently on a staggering 24-match unbeaten run at this level and the 2011 champions won all three of their group stage encounters without conceding a single goal. Malaga midfielder Ignacio Camacho is the only injury doubt for la Roja after limping off against the Netherlands with a sprained ankle but is expected to recover in time for the semi-final showdown. Spain come into this match after dismantling Netherlands in their final group game this week. Julen Lopetegui’s men have won three from three in their group, without conceding a goal and that has been down to one man, David de Gea. The Manchester United keeper has been in fine form, producing a number of world-class saves to keep Netherlands at bay last time out.
ü Alvaro Morata is the tournament’s top scorer with 3 goals, having netted in every group match. ü La Roja have won the Under-21 Championships three times in their history (1986, 1998, 2011) – only Italy (5) have won it on more occasions. ü David De Gea is the most experienced player in the Spain squad, having made 25 appearances at U21 level. ü Benfica forward Rodrigo Moreno has the highest number of goals at this level in the current Spain squad- 14 goals in 14appearances.
Man to Watch
Isco– The attacking midfielder has been central to the Spanish cause so far in the tournament and the European Golden Boy will be the key to unlocking a stubborn Norwegian defense. His playmaking ability and vision will come in handy as Spain will look to wrap up the game within the 90 minutes.
De Gea Montoya • Bartra • Martínez • Moreno Alcântara • Illarramendi Tello • Isco • Muniain Morata
Norway came into this tournament with more hope than expectation, but they have been the surprise package of this year’s competition, remaining unbeaten throughout the group stages. Tor Ole Skullerud’s men have had an eventful tournament so far, grabbing a last minute equaliser against hosts Israel despite being down to 10 men, then convincingly beating England and conceding a last minute goal to draw with Italy. Norway are not struggling in front of goal, scoring six goals in their three group games so far and Skullerud has a fully fit squad to choose from after making nine changes for their 1-1 draw with Italy in Tel Aviv.
ü Norway have never reached a final at any age group in UEFA competitions. ü Their best performance at Under-21 level was a semifinal appearance in 1998 – where they lost to Spain. ü Harmeet Singh is the most experienced Under-21 player at this year’s tournament, winning 37 caps for Norway at this level. ü Vitesse Arnhem forward Marcus Pedersen has the highest number of goals at this level in the current Norway squad- 8 goals in 19appearances.
Man to Watch
Harmeet Singh– The “Norwegian Iniesta”, as he is popularly called by the media, will have to put in an extraordinary performance if Norway hope to reach the final. A defensive midfielder by trade, he will have to ensure that Spain do not get into the passing rhythm that has become their trademark.
Håskjold Elabdellaoui • Rogne • Berge • Strandberg Singh • Johansen • Eikrem Berget • Pedersen • Nielsen