Although Czech Republic midfielder Ladislav Krejčí describes his experience at this year's UEFA European Under-19 Championship as "unforgettable," the painful experience of an extra-time defeat by Spain ensured the story had a sorry conclusion.
Krejčí's 52nd-minute opener looked to have set the Czechs on course for their first triumph at this level only for Jon Aurtenetxe's equaliser five minutes before the end to send the contest into extra time. Krejčí's proved the scourge of the Spanish defence again, setting up Patrik Lácha for the Czechs' second goal in the first half of extra time, but Paco Alcácer's late double denied Jaroslav Hřebík's team.
"We were so close to the gold medal but in the end we lost and we have to settle for silver, so I am sad," the 19-year-old told UEFA.com. "We had our tactical plans laid down by our coach and we tried to follow them in the best way but you saw how things turned out. The feeling of defeat at this stage is really not so good."
Despite sensing victory on two occasions during the encounter in Chiajna, Krejčí acknowledged there was an air of inevitability at how Ginés Meléndez's Spain fought back to take the trophy for the fifth time. "Although in certain moments I believed we would win I knew there was still enough time left in the game, which gave me an inkling that we would have problems," he said. "We Czech players form a good team based on good tactics and togetherness but Spain are very strong on the ball and they combine so well; they keep possession for a long time."
The Czechs went into the final having won their first four games at the finals, and their Prague-born midfielded leaves Romania with a sense of what might have been. "The strongest memory for me will be of the entire team set-up," Krejčí explained. "All of the players, the staff, everyone was working together. It was unbelievable company to keep during the two weeks. I also have to mention the final match.
The atmosphere and everything surrounding the occasion was great. It's just a pity about the sad ending."
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