Spain will be hoping a golden generation finally delivers when they face France in the final of this year’s UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship in Belfast on Sunday.
The Spanish will be contesting their fourth Women’s U19 Euros final in a row and hoping they will put the hurt of losing the previous three – against Netherlands (2014), Sweden (2015) and France (2016) – firmly behind them.
This year’s decider, which is being staged at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park (19.30), is most definitely a revenge mission for the Spaniards.
In last year’s final in Slovakia they were arguably the better team but lost out 2-1 to the French on a saturated pitch which nullified their silky skills. The final in Senec actually took almost four hours to complete after a thunderstorm forced the game to be suspended for two hours at half-time.
Several of the Spanish players in this year’s squad represented their country last summer – and coach Pedro Lopez, who was also in charge in 2016, will be hoping their experience will prove to be a key to success this time.
They include captain Aitana Bonmati. Suspended for the group games in this year’s tournament, she led by example in the 3-2 semi-final win against The Netherlands on Thursday with some excellent wing play.
Striker Lucia Garcia, who scored in last year’s final and produced a neat finish in this year’s semi against the Dutch, will pose a major threat to the French. The Athletic Club player, who made her UEFA Women’s Champions League debut this season, was the top scorer in qualifying with 11 goals.
Other players involved last year who have been performing well this time include midfielder Patricia Guijarro (three goals in the tournament), winger Maite Oroz, left-sided playmaker and stand-in captain Carmen Menayo, centre back Andrea Sierra and skillful winger Laura Maria Perez.
Others to watch in the Spanish team include accomplished midfielders Damaris Egurrola and Paula Fernandez.
However, four-times tournament winners France, the first team to reach nine finals in the competition’s history, have plenty of flair of their own and coach Gilles Eyquem, who was at the helm last year, will be keen to outwit counterpart Lopez once again.
They also have players who were involved in the 2016 WU19 Euros, notably captain and top-class goalkeeper Mylene Chavas, full-back Pauline Dechilly and attacker Julie Thibaud, who scored the first of France’s goals in the 2-1 semi-final win over Germany on Thursday.
Exciting winger Emelyne Laurent, who scored the winner against the Germans, is another one to watch along with the tricky Mathilde Bourdieu. Both have scored two goals apiece in the tournament to date.
Before the WU19 Euros got under way in Northern Ireland on 8 August, UEFA tipped Lina Boussaha to shine for Eyquem’s side. So far the attacking midfielder from Paris Saint-Germain has only shown glimpses of what she is capable of, but perhaps she will rise to the occasion on Sunday.
The French have a solid centre back pairing in Julia Piga and Elisa De Almeida but they will have to be on their toes against the swashbuckling Spanish attackers.
Tickets for the final are available via the Ticketmaster website by clicking here. They will also be available at the gate.