Spain's UEFA European Under-21 Championship aspirations were ended at the Gamla Ullevi where an impressive, battling 2-0 victory against already-eliminated Finland came too late to revive their challenge.
Spain's hopes of pipping Germany to Group B's remaining semi-final place were always slender. They needed to beat Finland, hope Germany lost to England and engineer a four-goal swing to have any chance of progressing – instead a draw in the section's other game proved their downfall. Spain went down with a fight, however, twice exposing Finland's weakness at set-plays. First, on 29 minutes, Marc Torrejón capitalised on the defence's failure to clear their lines to fire in. Then Pedro León, replacing Bojan Krkić in the starting XI, swerved in a powerful free-kick to make it two. Spain went in search of more, but even had they scored ten, it would ultimately have made no difference.
Finland coach Markku Kanerva had spent a significant part of the pre-match warm-up giving a pep talk to defensive lynchpin Tuomo Turunen, perhaps in expectation of a Spanish onslaught. It did not arrive. Instead it was Suomi who made the early running, spraying the ball around with composure, though as has become familiar during this tournament they failed to capitalise on their ascendency. Spain came into the game, the 18th-minute loss of the fluent José Manuel Jurado to an ankle injury failing to hamper them, as the passes, until then ugly and awry, became cute, decisive.
Spain's Ciceronian style, all elegance and free-flow, has been evident during these finals in fits and starts but without the defining end product. They did not make that mistake here. With 29 minutes on the clock Juan Ramón López Caro's team earned a free-kick on the right flank. Esteban Granero swung it in, and though Raúl García's flick failed to find its way past Mehmet Hetemaj, the Finland No8 could only divert it into the path of Torrejón who swept in Spain's first goals of these finals. A second almost came moments later but Jukka Lehtovaara – one of four players given their first finals start in Gothenburg – tipped Pedro León's effort over.
The goalkeeper came to the rescue again before half-time when Mario Suárez got his head to a free-kick, though he could do nothing to keep out a more direct set-piece from Pedro León ten minutes after the restart following a foul on García. It should have been 3-0 just after the hour as Spain began to drive forward with real purpose but Xisco somehow contrived to spear Nacho Monreal's smart low cross over from all of a metre. The attacking bent came at a cost as gaps began to appear at the back but Finland, and particularly half-time substitute Berat Sadik, were unable to capitalise as Sergio Asenjo barely worked up a sweat. Lehtovaara was not afforded such luxury. His save to deny substitute Jonathan Pereira from distance was regulation; his reaction stop to keep out García from close range was brilliant. Granero did beat the 21-year-old from the edge of the box with nine minutes remaining, only to be denied by the upright, though it mattered not in the final reckoning.