It took a late goal from Moi Gómez on matchday three, but holders Spain are into the UEFA European Under-19 Championship again after holding off Croatia to win Group 4.
Luís de la Fuente's team went into their final elite round game in Starogard Gdański knowing their opponents were the only side that could deny them a place in Friday's finals draw in Lithuania, but when Petar Brlek put Croatia in front nine minutes into the second period, Spain had work to do. Adama Traore came off the bench in an attempt to provide a spark and in the 77th minute Gómez equalised, maintaining a run of successive qualifications stretching back to 2005 – and raising hopes of a third title in a row.
"Traore really is an astonishing player but he is still young and has time to play more in this team," said De la Fuente of the 17-year-old FC Barcelona forward. "We have in our squad lots of talented players who are a bit older, but he helped us a lot in the dangerous moments. I expected a very hard game today, as Croatia have a very strong team. In the first half we did not play well but we dominated the second. We also created many good chances while Croatia scored from the only dangerous situation they created.
"I was not afraid that we wouldn't get the equaliser," he added. "I know the quality of my team and I was convinced the goal would come. Croatia played very well, but Spain were the better team, so we deserved the goal which means we progress to the final tournament. We're extremely happy to be there."
Spain had taken charge of the section on matchday one, Fede Vico scoring the only goal against hosts Poland though De la Fuente's charges had to hold on after Alvaro Vadillo's red card midway through the second half. Greece were then beaten 2-0 in a repeat of last year's final, although the goals did not come until added time from Alejandro Serrano and Vico again.
Croatia had opened with a 1-1 draw against Greece and a 2-0 defeat of Poland kept them in contention, as they were even after Gómez's late strike. They were unable to find a winner, however, and had to settle for second place, with Greece third and Poland fourth following their 1-1 draw.
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