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Spain and Germany meet in Sunday's UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final in Chesterfield having won five of the previous six editions between them.
While Spain's probing, patient style is passionately upheld at every level, Germany's more direct approach is equally enthralling. Coach Anouschka Bernhard, who masterminded their third triumph in 2012 after succeeding Ralf Peter, is all too aware of the threat Spain pose after succumbing 4-0 to them in their final Group B game.
"When you look at the Spanish players, a lot of them are particularly small but extremely quick and powerful – that's their style – playing quick, sharp passes," Bernhard said. "They are effective with and without the ball and technically very clever. Both teams like to attack but we are a little more direct."
After edging Scotland 4-2 and making light work of France, Germany were pipped to top spot by Spain, but showed their mettle to overcome Italy 1-0 in the last four. "Tomorrow's game will be played at a very high standard and high tempo," Bernhard added. "Both teams have the ability to play very well with different styles. Spain have played unbelievably well in the group stage but we also showed our class against France. The two best teams at this tournament are in the final and hopefully it will be a great match."
Spain were humbled 7-0 by Germany in the 2009 showpiece, but recovered to win the next two editions. Jorge Vilda, who is seeking to become the first coach to land this title three times, is not expecting a repeat of their group meeting, meanwhile. "No two games are the same," Vilda said. "We're facing a Germany team who are a bit wounded after the result last week. We know they'll be keen to beat us but we want to take advantage of any anxiety they might have."
Bernhard agrees. "We analysed the match and know where we can improve," she said. "It's a new game, a new situation and when the whistle blows it's 0-0. For us it's not important what happened in the group stage."
The overriding feeling is one of nervous excitement, with both mentors eager to get started. "We've been waiting for this moment for a long time, and are really motivated about facing Germany, which is what we wanted," enthused Vilda. "If we want to be champions of Europe, what better way than by playing against Germany and putting the icing on the cake at the end of this tournament which has been faultless up to now."
"We're looking forward to the match because it's the final," added Bernhard. "We're a little bit nervous as anyone who reaches the final is. We just want to get the preparation over and done with, play the final and start fighting for the title. We are delighted to be here and proud to have gone so far. Now we want to overcome the final hurdle."
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