European U-21 Championship: Spain Beat Finland But Fail To Qualify

Spain picked up the win they needed against Finland, but with Germany securing a draw against England, it is the end of the line for the Spanish U-21 outfit...

Finland 0-2 Spain  

Both coaches made changes to their line-ups with Juan Ramon Lopez Caro dropping Bojan Krkic, but sticking with his new 4-4-2 formation.  Esteban Granero, Ivan Marcano, Xisco, and Pedro Leon were the players drafted in.   

Finnish counterpart Markku Kanerva brought in some fringe players with his side already eliminated. Sevilla forward Teemu Pukki came in to lead the attack.   

First Half  

Spain began the game very much in the same vein as they did against both Germany and England with lots of possession, but very little bite or creativity in the final third.   

A Pedro Leon shot after 12 minutes was the first noticeable effort by either side but it was an easy take for Lehtovaara in the Finnish goal.  Two minutes later and Jurado hit an even worse effort way over the bar after Finland failed to clear a corner.   

With Spain gaining the upper hand Finland coach Markku Karneva urged his team forward from the sidelines, but with 20 minutes gone he was forced to tell Mehmet Hetemaj to calm down after he was very nearly shown two yellow cards in quick succession. He was booked for a horrible challenge on Jurado, before then jumping into a second needless tackle soon after.  

Spain though were rewarded on the half-hour mark for their bight start with a goal. A shot from Raul Garcia was blocked by Hetemaj and defender Marc Torrejon was on hand to fire in the loose ball having advanced forward.   

The goal clearly lifted Spanish spirits and two minutes later, a good run and shot from Pedro Leon forced the keeper into a save. Finland were then put at a disadvantage when key midfielder Tim Sparv was forced off injured with Jussi Vasara coming on to replace him.  

Second Half  

The second-half kicked off with Spain looking for England to do them a favour against England while they themselves scored a hatful of goals.  Finland though showed early signs of wanting to get forward and both Vasara and Raitala had efforts (albeit weak ones) in the opening minutes of the second half, while Hamalainen went close on 52 minutes. 

Following the early onslaught from Finland, Spain then went up the other end ten minutes in to score their second of the game. Valladolid winger Pedro Leon showed his expertise from set pieces by lifting the ball over the wall and into the net with the keeper’s left hand unable to stop it.  

It could and should have been 3-0 on the hour mark but Xisco unbelievably missed the target from close range after Nacho Monreal had drilled the ball across the area and provided him with an easy chance.  

Hamalainen continued to be Finland’s best player and he very nearly punished Spain for Xisco’s miss on 65 minutes. His shot from 12 yards had keeper Sergio Asenjo rooted to the spot as the ball shaved the post.   

Further gaps were appearing in the Finnish defence and Granero and substitute Jonathan Pereira went close before keeper Lehtovaara pulled off a great save to keep out Raul Garcia’s fierce shot.   

The Finnish keeper staked a massive claim for the ‘Man of the Match’ award with yet another superb save on 81 minutes. Granero seriously thought he had scored Spain’s third of the night before the custodian turned the ball onto the post and out.   

If there was any doubt that the Finland keeper was the ‘Man of the Match’ then they were dispersed two minutes from time when he pulled off another fantastic save. This time he dived at full stretch to deny Diego Capel following a shot from outside the penalty area.    

In the end the result from the Germany game did Spain no favours with England and Germany sharing a 1-1 draw meaning the end of the road for Spain’s Under-21 side.      

Goals  

0-1  Torrejon (29)

0-2  Pedro Leon (55)    

Finland: Lehtovaara, Jalasto, Raitala, Portin, Turunen, Sparv (Vasara 39), M.Hetemaj, P.Hetemaj, Hakola (Karkkainen 76), Hamalainen, Pukki (Sadik 46)  

Spain: Asenjo, Monreal, Torrejon, Azpilicueta, Marcano, Raul Garcia, Mario Suarez, Jurado (Sisi 21), Granero (Diego Capel 83), Xisco, Pedro Leon (Jonathan Pereira 68)

Mathew Burt, Goal.com