The action in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship on Friday saw two countries book their places in the semi-finals and two suffer elimination from the competition. The remaining four nations are all still dreaming of championship glory tonight, but two more will be out by Sunday.
Portugal win group
Host nation Portugal have definitely won Group A after a hard-earned 1-0 win against Austria while Spain are assured of progressing from Group B after seeing off Israel 3-0 in one half of a Chaves double-header. The Israelis were thus eliminated from the competition, along with Hungary, who lost 2-0 against Denmark, whose hopes are alive again in Group A. Meanwhile England and Italy, who fought out the tournament's first draw tonight in Chaves in Group B, are still in with a shout of a last-four place.
Bahar praises Spanish
Although they need to avoid defeat in their final game to ensure they win Group B, Spain's win today made a big impression on defeated Israeli coach Avraham Bahar. "We played against the future European champions," he said. "I've been coach of Israel for ten years and I've never seen a team play such good football at such a young age." Israel defender Lior Gan concurred with his coach's opinion, saying: "Spain are an extraordinary team."
The Spanish camp itself was more restrained. "Despite the result it was not an easy game," said former FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF goalkeeper Julen Lopetegui, who is now one of Spain coach Juan Santisteban's assistants. "I cannot assure you we will be the next European champions but we are working in that direction."
Italy and England's respective coaches were thoughtful in their assessment of their sides' goalless draw. "We played against English 'Catenaccio'," joked Italy coach Antonio Rocca in deference to the opposition's superb defending. "The match was in our hands, we played with three forwards and did everything we could to score, but unfortunately we didn't succeed."
England coach John Peacock admitted that his side had been in a tough contest. "This was a very difficult game for us," he said. "But we secured one point. Our defence was good throughout the game but we didn't pass the ball as we wanted."
Over in Group A, Portugal coach António Violante was a pleased man after his side maintained their perfect record against the Austrians in Santa Comba Dão. "My players did quite well," Violante said. "The defence worked well and the attack too. They [Austria] were strong adversaries."
Manuel Curto on target
For the second match in succession midfield player Manuel Curto scored his side's winning goal, a long-range effort in the 15th minute, and the SL Benfica youngster earned the praise of his coach.
Public support important
"He's done well," he said. "He's scored two winning goals so we are proud of him." Violante also stressed how much his side are enjoying the experience of playing in front of their home fans. "We feel very privileged and motivated and we hope to reach the final," he said. "The public and their support is important and we will try to match that expectation and pressure."
Austria coach Ernst Weber was also satisfied with his side's showing against the hosts and thought they had come close to pulling off an upset. "It was a good performance by our squad," he said. "There were many opportunities for both sides but they took their chance and we didn't execute ours so we didn't win."
Austria will be without Franz Schiemer for their crucial showdown against Denmark on Sunday in Nelas after he picked up his second booking of the tournament against Portugal. Only a win against the Danes will be enough for the Austrians to progress. For them, as well as the Danes, English and Italians, Sunday will be a tense day.
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