Stupendous Spain win U17 crown
Friday, May 16, 2008
France 0-4 Spain
Keko, Sergi, Thiago and Manu all scored to give Spain head coach Juan Santisteban a sixth title at this level.
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Keko was the inspiration behind the victory, producing a display which eclipsed even that of last year's final winner Bojan Krkić. He turned in Thiago's pass just after the half-hour and his ball set up Sergi early in the second period for Spain's second. Thiago then converted a penalty and substitute Manu headed in from Keko's cross to give the 71-year-old Santisteban his sixth title at this level and, if retirement reports are true, his last. France beat Santisteban's Spain in the 2004 final but never looked like repeating that or the 3-3 group stage draw in which they led three times.
Wearing black armbands in memory of national team doctor Genaro Borrás who died yesterday, Spain belied their usual slow starts in this tournament. Carmona's early cross nearly crept in while Sergi, preferred up front to Rubén, jinked in from the left but was denied by France's penalty shoot-out hero three days ago against hosts Turkey, Anthony Mfa Mezui. Missing Oriol due to a broken wrist, Santisteban had also brought back Gazta and preferred Álvaro to fellow midfielder-captain Canales, while Sergi and Keko were really troubling a France defence in which Joël Adegoroye was starting for the first time due to William Remy's suspension.
On 20 minutes, France livened up and Clément Grenier's cross only just eluded Gaël Kakuta but Spain broke and after another mazy Keko dribble the ball fell to Sergi but Mfa Mezui saved. Club Atlético de Madrid prospect Keko also took out two France defenders with an outrageous drag-back but their colleagues ran back to clear. Deservedly it was Keko who opened the scoring on 31 minutes, shooting in at the left-hand post after Thiago pinged the ball across the face of goal.
France had recovered from conceding first against the Republic of Ireland and Turkey, and brought on Loïc Nego for Adegoroye at right-back, but Keko continued to produce some superb tricks, forcing Sébastien Fauré to clear after an outrageous flick within two minutes of the interval. Not long afterwards Keko won the ball in midfield, strode forward and played a perfect pass for the advancing Sergi to send a left-footed shot past Mfa Mezui.
Thiago had outshone Keko prior to this final and got in on the act with a lovely shimmy, though Manu was denied by a tackle from fellow substitute Willy Boly, making his finals debut. Fauré was then adjudged to have tripped Sielva as he surged into the area and Thiago put away the first non shoot-out penalty of the finals.
Keko was not involved in that goal; no matter, as on the right he spun away from his marker and delivered a perfect cross for Manu to head in off the underside of the crossbar for Spain's fourth. Fauré did excellently to deny Keko when he rounded Mfa Mezui later on, but Spain had already equalled the record win in a European final at this level, the Soviet Union's 4-0 U16 defeat of Greece in 1985. Santisteban has brought through most of the stars of Spain teams in recent years, but seldom could his charges have combined for a display like this on the biggest night of their young careers.