Spain will feature in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals for the third consecutive year after the defending champions completed their Group A campaign with victory against Estonia.
La Rojita featured five changes to the side that started the 3-3 draw against Portugal and it was two of those replacements – Denis Suárez and Paco Alcácer – who got the decisive goals in each half against the hard-working hosts. As Group A winners, Spain will play France, the runners-up in Group B, in the last four on Thursday in a repeat of the 2010 final.
With tournament top scorer Jesé Rodríguez suspended, Valencia CF forward Alcácer came in and almost opened the scoring in the tenth minute, flicking Gerard Deulofeu's cross from the left before narrowly wide.
The foundations for Spain's internationally renowned footballing style are laid at youth level and the country's future stars have been displaying the fruits of their schooling at this tournament. After defeats by Portugal and Greece, Estonia were the latest side hoping to interrupt the constant forward flow of the tournament holders.
Playing in a compact 4-5-1 formation, the hosts combined tireless defensive toil with a little luck as they kept their opponents at bay for much of the opening period. Deulofeu did draw a comfortable save from goalkeeper Vadim Gurnik with a shot from distance before Suso's cleverly poked free-kick bounced back off the crossbar.
Spain continued to probe and finally broke Estonia's resolve six minutes before the break. Manchester City FC midfielder Suárez side footed in Alcácer's clever flick-back from Deulofeu's low centre.
The visitors continued to dominate after the restart with FC Barcelona winger Deulofeu sending a free-kick narrowly past the upright and substitute Juan Bernat volleying Suso's arcing pass back across the face of the goal. Alcácer then had low shot saved by the legs of Gurnik before Adrián Ortolá made his first stop of the day from Artur Rättel's drive.
The five-time champions were not to be denied, however, and it was Alcácer – scorer of two extra-time goals in last season's final triumph against the Czech Republic – who confirmed top spot in section with a spectacular shot from distance that bounced in off the upright.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.