The magic moment of Spanish football seems to be endless, as even the country’s Under-21 team set the pitch on fire playing a dominant, attacking game. In recent years, Spain’s trademark has been the amass of technically skilled players well versed in the art of possession football. And in Denmark, this philosophy is well represented by the likes of Juan Mata, Thiago Alcantara (a little Xavi “clone”), Javi Martinez, Iker Muniain, Ander Herrera and Martin Montoya.
Moreover, coach Luis Milla can count on a lethal striker in the form of Adrian, who has bagged three goals in three games. The Deportivo La Coruna forward is in great form and has proven Milla right to hand him a starting spot ahead of Barcelona’s Bojan Krkic. With an extremely solid defensive unit, led by potentially world-class goalkeeper David de Gea, the only real danger this young “Invincible Armada” face is one of complacency. Such a fate befell the side in their first game of the tournament against England, when a game Spain ruled ended in a disappointing draw due to a late conceded goal.
Great luck and little else
Just a good 90 minutes out of 270 were enough for Belarus to secure a spot in the Under-21 semi-finals. Coach Georgi Kondratyev’s men produced a fine second half against Iceland, scoring twice in the last 13 minutes, after being kept alive by some crucial saves from goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor; Belarus also took the lead against Denmark in their second match before being defeated 2-1. However, Dmitri Baga’s goal was vital, alongside Gutor’s impressive saves against the Danes, in helping his team make the last four, thanks to a superior head-to-head goal difference with Denmark and Iceland.
While Belarus were trampled by Switzerland in their last group game, Denmark’s suicide against Iceland meant that luck shone on the Eastern European side. But despite progressing past the group stage for the first time in their history, there are reasons to be concerned about the quality of the football on show. The Belarus side that impressed with a sensational comeback to defeat five-time champions Italy 3-2 on aggregate in the playoffs, never landed in Denmark. Kondratyev’s 4-4-1-1 is defensive and unspectacular without being functional, as five goals conceded in the country’s last two games attest to.
Players to watch
Spain - Juan Mata: With two goals and two assists out of Spain’s three games, the number 10 has played a key role in helping his country march to the semi-finals. Holding 11 caps to his name in Spain’s senior team – he even made an appearance at the 2010 World Cup –, the Valencia man started the tournament as one of the most experienced players in Denmark. On the pitch the winger-cum-midfielder has lived up to his billing.
Belarus - Aleksandr Gutor: The keeper’s saves have been a big reason behind Belarus’ progression in Denmark and he possesses superb one-on-one abilities. Indeed, the BATE Borisov man has often pulled the chestnut of the fire for his team. However, Gutor will need to put in the display of his career so far to help Belarus beat Spain, and even that may not be enough.
Spain face the weakest side they have met so far against Belarus and the Eastern Europeans have already achieved a historic result by reaching the semi-final stage. So far, the Spanish have played the most entertaining football of the tournament, while Belarus have played some of the poorest. The real question is not will Spain win, but how many goals will they score? Three, at least.
Fonte: Inside Futbol