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Juanmi looks to Spain coach for final inspiration

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012, 17.15CET
Captain Juanmi believes Greece will be formidable foes in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final but expects the harmony in the Spain squad to prove decisive.
by Paul Bryan
from Tallinn
Juanmi looks to Spain coach for final inspiration
Spain captain Juanmi (right) with Giorgos Katidis of Greece ©Sportsfile

Road to the final

The UEFA European Under-19 Championship consists of three distinct stages: the qualifying round, the elite round and the final tournament.

Qualifying round
The qualifying round, played in autumn, is made up of 13 groups of four teams playing in one-venue mini-tournaments. The top two from each progress.

Elite round
In the elite round, played in the spring, those 26 qualifiers join the top two seeds, given a bye, in seven mini-tournament groups of four. The group winners then join the hosts in the finals.

Final tournament

The seven qualifiers plus the hosts are split into two groups of four who play each other once, with the top two progressing to the semi-finals. The winners of those ties contest the final.

Further details, including the criteria for separating teams that finish level on points in a group, or after extra time in a match, can be found in the official competition regulations.

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012, 17.15CET

Juanmi looks to Spain coach for final inspiration

Captain Juanmi believes Greece will be formidable foes in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final but expects the harmony in the Spain squad to prove decisive.

With their "father figure" coach Julen Lopetegui at the helm, Spain's Juanmi is confident the defending champions will be prepared for every eventuality against Greece in their seventh UEFA European Under-19 Championship final.

Back in May the Spain captain got his side's qualifying campaign off to a perfect start with an added-time winner against Armenia and featured in all three Group A games at the finals, although he watched the dramatic semi-final defeat of France from the bench for tactical reasons.

"In the end we got to the final by winning on penalties so thankfully fortune was on our side," the Málaga CF midfielder told "We tried to stick to our style and did our part well, showing initiative and calmness. We knew France had a great team with quality players and that they were going to make life difficult for us and that's exactly how it turned out."

Part of the side that lifted Spain's fifth U19 title in Romania last year, Juanmi has been impressed with the high standard of this year's tournament. "France, England, Greece; the teams have been excellent here in Estonia while the competition has been played out at a very high level," he said.

"The two sides who reached the final deserve to be there as both have been brilliant up until now. There are many people watching us here but it's been a tournament where we have looked to enjoy ourselves and you can see that in our play."

Despite being only 19, Juanmi is heading into his fourth season with Málaga where he holds the record as the youngest ever player and scorer, finding the net aged 16 in a 5-1 Copa del Rey defeat by Getafe CF on 13 January 2010. He has since registered five goals in 28 appearances for the Liga side and says that the responsibilities he has been entrusted with at these finals sit lightly on his shoulders. 

"I don't feel any pressure at all being captain of this team," he said. "It is a source of great pride for me to be given the armband by a coach who is like a father figure not just to me but to the entire group.

"[Julen Lopetegui] is fantastic; he is always there to help us with whatever we need and he has a very clear idea of how he likes to do things. It will be the same for the final."

Spain overcame Greece 2-1 in Haapsalu in their opening Group A game on 3 July, yet Juanmi expects another testing encounter. "They really made things hard for us in the second half that day," he added. 

"We expect them to present us with more difficulties in the final but I don't believe we will see a similar type of match. We are very united as a group and play with harmony so we will look to impose our style on Greece. Let's see what happens."

Last updated: 14/07/12 17.48CET

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