Spain v FYR Macedonia background

There could scarcely be more difference in the respective finals experience of four-time champions Spain and debutants FYR Macedonia as they meet in the first round of Group B games.

Spanish forward Raul celebrates after scoring a goal
Spanish forward Raul celebrates after scoring a goal ©AFP

While four-time champions Spain are returning to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship after missing out last time, debutants FYR Macedonia are in uncharted territory as these teams open Group B.

Previous meetings
• Spain have won the two sides' previous meetings, both in qualifying for the 1996 finals. Óscar García scored the only goal of the first game, in Bitola on 11 October 1994. Artim Shakiri was in the home team, with Aitor Karanka and Gaizka Mendieta among the Spain line-up.

• Raúl González was Spain's star man just over a year later, contributing a hat-trick in Alicante; Jorge Lardín got the other. Karanka, Mendieta, Iván de la Peña and substitute Fernando Morientes also featured for Spain.

Match background

Spain
• Champions in 2011 and 2013, Spain missed the 2015 finals – losing to Serbia in the play-offs – but have qualified for the fourth time in five editions. This time they again needed the play-offs, having come second in Group 6 behind holders Sweden; the Spaniards picked up seven wins and two draws from their ten fixtures, losing only at home to Croatia (0-3).

• Spain were paired with Austria in the play-offs, going through on away goals after a 1-1 away draw and a goalless home draw.

• The Spanish were champions in 1986 and 1998, when their squad included Míchel Salgado, Guti, Miguel Ángel Angulo and Juan Carlos Valerón. They were runners-up in 1984 and 1996, and third in 1994 and 2000.

FYR Macedonia
• This is the first UEFA final tournament FYR Macedonia have ever qualified for; they played in the 2010 WU19 EURO as hosts.

• In qualifying for these finals, FYR Macedonia collected 21 points to finish top of Group 3, one point above France. They posted six wins and three draws in their ten fixtures; their 13 goals was the lowest total among the teams who progressed to Poland.

Coach and player links
• David Babunski was at Barcelona B from 2013–16. He played alongside Sergi Samper for the duration of his stay, Denis Suárez in 2013/14 and Munir El Haddadi between 2014 and 2015.

Coach profiles

Albert Celades, Spain
Defensive midfielder Celades enjoyed a decorated 15-year playing career in which he won four Liga titles, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup. Having joined Barcelona aged 14, Celades debuted under Johan Cruyff in 1995/96. After 101 appearances for the club, he moved to Celta Vigo before becoming one of the few players to cross the Barça-Real Madrid divide, in 2000.

Five years later, after a loan spell at Bordeaux, he signed for Zaragoza; eventually he hung up his boots following a season in Major League Soccer with New York. In 2013, four years after retiring, he took over Spain's U16s and he was soon appointed U21 coach when Julen Lopetegui – now in charge of the senior side – left for Porto in 2014.

Blagoja Milevski, FYR Macedonia
A defender whose playing days spanned nearly three decades, Milevski started and finished his career at Vardar, in addition to stays in Greece, Slovenia – where he lifted the cup with Maribor in 1994 – Turkey and Israel. A 2009 title winner in FYR Macedonia with Makedonija GjP, he stopped playing 12 months later and went into coaching as an assistant at Vardar in 2011.

Promoted to head coach the next year, he won the Macedonian First League and Super Cup in 2013 and was duly named the country's Coach of the Year – an award he reclaimed in 2016. The U21 job came along in September 2014.