Fired by the goals of Rodrigo, Spain dropped just two points in qualifying and then dealt with Denmark 8-1 in the play-offs to give themselves a chance to defend their crown in Israel.
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Having failed to qualify for four consecutive Under-21 finals since the beginning of the century, Spain's re-emergence as a force at this level coincided with the upturn in fortunes enjoyed by the senior side. Following their championship triumph in Denmark in 2011, the title holders embarked on what would emerge as an unbeaten qualifying campaign with a 7-2 victory away to Georgia.
Beaten finalists in 2011, Switzerland were expected to provide Spain with their toughest test in the section and so it proved with the three-time champions' only dropped points coming in the away draw against Pierluigi Tami's team. Despite a coaching change in which Luis Milla was replaced by Julen Lopetegui, La Rojita maintained their momentum and eventually posted an 8-1 aggregate success over Denmark in the two-legged play-off for the finals. That impetus was continued as the side prepared for Israel by beating Norway 5-2 and Russia 3-1 in a pair of friendlies.
With the outstanding Rodrigo registering 11 goals in qualifying and Isco pulling the strings in midfield, Spain made light of important long-term injury absentees such as FC Barcelona's Thiago Alcántara and Valencia CF's Sergio Canales, though both return to the squad for the finals. "This is going to be a beautiful tournament with some big-name sides," Lopetegui said after visiting Israel. "For our part, we know that if we perform to the best of our abilities, we are capable of beating anybody."