|International Matches - Under 21|
Spain 1 - France 1
Spain: Reina; Varela,
Marchena, Jusué, Bermudo; Joaquín (Fernando 78'), Orbaiz, Xavi,
Vicente; Guayre (Boris 63'), Pablo. 4-4-2.
A disappointing result for Spain in the European championships, only managing to draw against France in a match they needed to win. With their opponents heading up the table with four wins out of four and only one team to qualify automatically for the finals, this was the most important game of their season. A packed crowd turned up at Villarreal's Madrigal stadium to cheer on Iñaki Saez's team, which was at full strength except for the absence of the injured Unai. Spain started well but Guayre wasted two clear cut opportunities early on, shooting at Landreau when he should have found the target. Dalmat went close at the other end before Pablo convinced Italian referee Pasquale Rodomonti that he had been fouled in the penalty area, even though television pictures cast doubt on whether either Escude or Brechet had touched him. Xavi stepped up confidently though to place the ball wide of Landreau and give his side the lead, his seventh goal for the under 21 side in 18 games.
The introduction of Olympique Lyon's Govou in the second half changed the game though, and Marchena was sent off just after the hour mark after bringing down the nippy striker on the edge of the penalty area as he raced for goal. Saez took off Guayre and brought on Boris to defend the lead, but with Xavi subdued in midfield France took control of the game. With ten minutes to go Reveillere swung in a cross from the right, and Govou turned the it goalwards. Varela tried to block his shot, but the ball spun past him and bounced on in to the net for the equaliser. In the last few minutes Reina saved the day, stopping a shot from Govou at close range and then diving at the feet of Chapuis as France came looking for a winner.
Spain did come back briefly, and in injury time Fernando was felled and rather than getting up and chasing the ball (which he would probably have reached) he stayed on the ground appealing for a penalty. Then with almost the last kick of the match an out of touch Pablo shot straight at the keeper with two players better positioned. It was difficult to believe that this was the side that trounced England only a couple of weeks ago, but the French are riding high and have a team packed with experienced players. Spain now probably have to settle for second place and hope they finish high enough to qualify for the quarter finals as one of the seven best placed sides out of the nine groups. They should still do it but made things a little bit more difficult for themselves today.