France coach Pierre Mankowski expects Spain to emulate the approach the senior side have made their own as the teams meet in the second UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-final in Tallinn.
Les Bleuets were the first team to qualify for the last four after wins against Serbia and Croatia in their first two Group B fixtures, yet a matchday three defeat by England meant that the 2010 winners advanced in second place. That set up a meeting with the reigning champions, who came through Group A unbeaten and finished first in the section thanks to a 2-0 defeat of hosts Estonia.
"We can always learn from every game but for now it is only the Spanish one that holds any interest for us," Mankowski told UEFA.com. "So far, except for the loss to England – in a game where I left half of my [first] team on the bench – we have only good things to say about this tournament and we are in good spirits ahead of our semi-final."
The teams have already met this year, Spain enjoying a 2-1 friendly victory in Paris at the end of February having been set on their way by Rafa Alcántara's early strike. "That was a match in which Spain scored the first goal after ten seconds," Mankowski explained. "That affected the 90 minutes as my team tried to equalise from then on. Spain were the superior side that day and showed their collecective strength. They play just like the senior side so this will be another difficult game."
Along with fellow semi-finalists England, who face Greece in the last four in the first last-four fixture, five-time winners Spain are undefeated in six competitive U19 encounters this season from the elite round onwards. Their coach Julen Lopetegui is convinced his players have the same eagerness to perform as they did when they opened their qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win against Armenia on 23 May.
"I am really happy with all of my players," the former Spain international goalkeeper told UEFA.com. "They are young so tiredness doesn't really come into it at the moment. Even if they were feeling weary, the excitement and keenness to do well eclipses that."
Pointing out that France, themselves champions at this level in 2005 and 2010, showed their class in that friendly meeting five months ago, Lopetegui – who is without defender Javi Manquillo (ankle) and has a decision to make on centre-back Derik Osesde (nose) – added that he is unsure what approach his opposite number will favour at the Lilleküla Stadium.
"France have already demonstrated against us that they have a great team," he said. "In terms of level, we are very close to one another. They are strong both technically and physically. I don't know what type of match to expect from them."
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