Defending champions Spain U-21 were knocked out in the qualification play-off of Euro 2015 by Serbia U-21 in Cadiz while strong contenders France U-21 dramatically lost against Sweden U-21.
Albert Celades’ La Rojita will not defend their title in Czech Republic next summer after they were beaten by Serbia. After a goalless first leg in Serbia, they lost 2-1 in Cadiz on Tuesday night. The Spaniards were boasting household names such as Javier Manquilo, Sergi Roberto, Isco, Iker Munian, Munir El Haddadi and Gerard Deulofeu but fell behind in the first half thanks to an own goal. The two teams traded goals in stoppage time but it was not enough as the Spaniards miss out on the show-piece event next summer.
Spain coach Albert Celades said after the match: “We did everything we could, but in football the best team doesn’t always win. They had two shots on target and scored two goals. We played well, we had a lot of the ball, we gave everything but it was all for nothing.”
“This is a terrible blow for everyone; the team does not deserve this punishment. We tried to win the game right until the final second, but it was no use. We are left with a terrible feeling and everyone in the dressing room is destroyed, because these boys gave everything but it was impossible.”
France U-21’s also failed to qualify for the Euro Championship after throwing away a 2 goal lead from the first leg against Sweden. Les Bleuets lost 4-1 in Halmstad last night to miss out on the competition for the second year running despite having a strong squad with the likes of Samuel Umtiti, Kingsley Coman and Aymeric Laporte.
Italy U-21 meanwhile sealed qualification after a controversial 3-1 win over Slovakia.The Azzurrini raced to a two goal lead in the first half but were pegged back after the interval. They nearly conceded the decisive equalizer and were lucky that the Slovaks did not get what looked like a stonewall penalty. The ill-tempered match saw Italy’s opposition finish with 9 men on the pitch and Inter Milan youth product Samuel Longo settled the contest with a fine finish in second half stoppage time.
“We cannot suffer like this as we had superiority in numbers.” Azzurrini head coach Luigi Di Biagio said immediately after the result. “After a first half in which we did everything very well in attacking and pressuring high, the team became divided and has complicated life for themselves. What happened should not have happened and I am angry with the boys. This second half must be taken as an example to not repeat mistakes and certain declines in mentality. If we want to get to the top then we need to improve mentally. Otherwise, I am pleased with the progress made this year-and-a-half and in overcoming the play-offs because we have reached an important milestone.”
“I hope that as this is an important event for Italy that many of these players can continue with us and be at the European Championships. That said, we work to provide the highest number of players to the national team under Conte and if he were to call them then we can find other youngsters to work with.”
England U-21 qualified for their fifth time consecutive finals next summer after Gareth Southgate’s boys professionally dispatched Croatia over two legs. Germany and Denmark will join them along with Portugal U-21 after the Iberians claimed an epic 5-4 win over Holland in the play-off last night. The final tournament will be held in Czech Republic from 15th to 30th June,2015.