The German players said they would have a good last night together after finishing their finals campaign with a 2-1 win against Russia in Netanya, though midfielder Sebastian Rode said there was "no reason for a major celebration". Their last Group B game was a tight affair, even with Russia down to ten men, and Rode added: "We could have decided the match earlier. After it went 2-1, we should have quickly added a third, but then it became close in the end with them hitting the post. Luckily we edged it."
Rainer Adrion said he would "give a short speech to say goodbye to the players I've known for two years" when he got back to the hotel after the game, and the squad will fly back to Munich tomorrow.
The Netherlands' 3-0 defeat by Spain equalled their heaviest loss on the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals stage but coach Cor Pot defended his decision to completely change his starting XI from their previous game. Between them the entire Dutch lineup in Petah Tikva had a combined 77 minutes' match action in Israel prior to Wednesday's game but Pot explained after a result that cost the Jong Oranje top spot in Group B that he wanted his first-choice players fresh for the semi-finals.
"Spain are a very experienced team and we had an inexperienced team today," he added. "I'm very happy that I did it with these players as it was very important for us."
There was obvious disappointment in the Russia camp after a third straight loss in Group B, though there was a feeling – expressed by the coach and players – that it was an improved performance following the 5-1 defeat by the Netherlands.
They came close to a point when substitute Fedor Smolov hit the post late on, and Nikolai Pisarev said that he would have brought on the striker earlier if his game plan had not been shaken up by the red card received by Georgi Schennikov. Two main groups within the squad are taking afternoon flights to Moscow tomorrow, but even tonight there are players heading off to different places following their exit.
The victory over the Netherlands equalled Spain's biggest win at a UEFA European Under-21 Championship final tournament and extended their unbeaten run in competitive matches to 24 matches. Moreover, it set up a semi-final against Norway for the Group A winners, although coach Julen Lopetegui was quick to dismiss the suggestion that the Norwegians would be easier semi-final opponents than Italy. "I think this match will be very difficult," said Lopetegui, who also hailed the display of goalkeeper David de Gea who made three fine saves to keep the Dutch at bay.
Lopetegui made seven changes for Wednesday's game, including giving an U21 debut to the squad's oldest player, Álvaro, who replaced Marc Bartra in central defence. There was one downside for La Rojita who saw Ignacio Camacho limp off in the second half. He later left Ha Moshava with ice strapped to his ankle.
The Young Lions returned home and will be keen to put their campaign in Israel behind them. England start out on the road to the next final tournament in the Czech Republic in 2015 on 5 September against Moldova.
Coach Guy Luzon was keen to stress that his side had performed above expectations after they finished third in Group A with four points from three games. He concluded: "If you told me before that we'd draw against Norway, the team that I said would beat Italy and England, then we'd beat England and lose to Italy no one in the country would have believed me." Luzon moves on to pastures new in Belgium with R. Standard de Liège while Israel Under-21s start on the road to the Czech Republic in 2015 against Azerbaijan on 7 September.
Those players involved in Tuesday's Group A meeting with Norway had only light training and massages but the remaining members of the squad trained in the evening. The injured Luca Marrone will remain with the squad after his club, Juventus, responded positively to his request to stay with the team until the end of the tournament.
The players who took part in Tuesday's draw with Italy did a gym session in the morning while those not involved trained as normal. In the afternoon, players and coaching staff had the opportunity to take a tour of Jerusalem, attended by a sizeable number of the Norway party.
Norway will now play a semi-final against Spain, the same nation they lost to on their one previous appearance at this stage of the U21 finals in 1998. Nils Johan Semb, who was coach then and is now technical director of the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF), is with the squad in Tel Aviv and said there was greater strength in depth in the current group.
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