U-21 Championship Preview: Finland - Spain

La Furia Roja need a minor miracle to avoid a major embarrassment...

Kick-Off: Monday June 22, 20:45 CET, Ullevi Stadium, Stockholm

Spain will be hoping to avoid a shock early exit from the competition, as they face Finland.

Wooden Spoon


Finland may not have a chance of progressing to the semi-finals, but they can still be proud of their performance. By far the least experienced side in the group, the Finns gave England a good run for their money, losing by a single goal in a game they dominated for long periods. They also failed to resist late German pressure in their second match. As a result, they go into their last match in last place, but there is still plenty to play for.

Of course, the main incentive is to pick up a win that would see them finish third, dumping Spain on the bottom of the group. This, in itself, would be a major achievement, given that La Furia Roja were considered by many to be favourites to win the entire tournament. However, given their current form, Finland know that a committed performance could cause their more fancied opponents a few problems.
Despite losing both games, there have been some positives for Finland to take out of this tournament. The likes of Tim Sparv and Berat Sadik, in particular, have impressed, and could be in line for a big move in the summer. After all, there is no better shop window than a game against the struggling Spanish.

Last Chance

In the current footballing climate, it seems strange that any facet of Spanish football could be struggling. Barcelona have just won the treble, Real Madrid are every Tom, Dick and Cristiano in Europe, and Spain, having already won the European Championship, continue to break records every time they step onto the pitch. Yet their U-21 team has been struggling for quite some time.

The irony of this situation is that in years gone by, the youth teams provided Spain's only international success. As the senior team consistently failed to match expectations at major tournaments, the youngsters racked up trophies aplenty. This time around, however, they require a minor miracle just to progress to the semi-finals.

First, Spain must beat Finland, and do so by a considerable margin. Then they must simultaneously hope that England beat Germany to such an extent that the Spanish end up with a better goal difference than the Germans. It is a difficult task, made even tougher by the fact that Spain have only scored 3 goals in their last 6 matches.

FORM GUIDE

Finland


Jun 18 2009 Germany 2-0 Finland

Jun 15 2009 England 2-1 Finland

Mar 26 2009 Scotland 2-1 Finland

Sep 05 2008 Finland 2-1 Denmark

Sep 09 2008 Slovakia 0-0 Finland

Spain


Jun 18 2009 England 2-0 Spain

Jun 15 2009 Germany 0-0 Spain

Mar 31 2009 Spain 0-0 Sweden

Mar 27 2009 Rep. Ireland 2-1 Spain

Feb 10 2009 Spain 1-1 Norway

Team News

Finland


Coach Markku Kanerva has dismissed any notion of giving his fringe players a game against Spain, as his side remain fully committed to winning against such an illustrious opponent.

Probable Starting XI
- Jaakola - Aho, Portin, Turunen, Raitala - M. Hetemaj, Sparv, P.Hetemaj, Hamalainen - Vasara, Sadik

Spain


Given his side's woeful recent performances, Juan Ramon Lopez Caro might look to make some changes to his line-up, with Diego Capel and Pedro Leon in with a chance. Bojan is expected to start, despite his poor recent form.

Probable Starting XI - Asenjo - Azpilicueta, Javi Garcia, Torrejon, Monreal - Javi Martinez, Raul Garcia, Jurado - Capel, Pedro Leon, Bojan

PLAYERS TO WATCH


Finland - Berat Sadik has been Finland's most impressive player, with his first half performance against England leaving many amazed. The Arminia Bielefeld striker has a bright future and another impressive performance here might make some of Europe's best clubs sit up and take notice.

Spain
- Bojan Krkic is undoubtedly feeling the pressure of being Spain's talisman, he has had a disappointing tournament, even being substituted before the hour mark in the game against England. There is no doubting his talent, but Bojan will have to produce the goods soon, as doubts begin to surface about his big match temperament.

PREDICTION


Spain have a poor recent record, but their squad is full of players who have faced similarly desperate situations at club level in recent times. The gulf in class should come through, in the end, but the problem might be that Spain don't win by enough goals, assuming of course, that England beat Germany, which is far from a certainty.

Finland 0-2 Spain


Arjun Miglani, Goal.com