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Spain finally see off France in semi-final shoot-out

Spain 3-3 France (aet, 4-2 on pens)
The holders reached a third successive final, with goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Gerard Deulofeu their penalty heroes in Tallinn.

Paco Alcácer (right) celebrates with Jesé Rodríguez after scoring for Spain
Paco Alcácer (right) celebrates with Jesé Rodríguez after scoring for Spain ©Sportsfile

Spain set up a repeat of the 2007 UEFA European Under-19 Championship final against Greece, although it took a penalty shoot-out for Julen Lopetegui's to finally finish off France in an epic semi-final.

The first blow of a thrilling contest arrived in the 26th minute, Samuel Umtiti giving 2010 winners France the lead, but the holders turned the match around after the restart through Gerard Deulofeu and substitute Paco Alcácer. Umtiti's added-time equaliser send an absorbing contest into an extended period that looked like ending in a Spain win when Deulofeu restored their lead with eight minutes remaining, yet five minutes later Paul Pogba brought France level again.

That sent the game into a shoot-out and, though José Campaña blazed Spain's first kick over the crossbar, Kepa Arrizabalaga saved from Umtiti and Geoffrey Kondogbia. Deulofeu duly converted the winning kick and take his team into the final for the third year running.

Spain scored in the first minute when these teams met in a Paris friendly in February – a game which La Rojita won 2-1 – and almost forged ahead early on again, Derik Osede's powerful header from José Campaña's free kick shaving the top of the crossbar.

Undefeated in their last eight competitive Under19 internationals prior, Spain again went close through Jesé Rodríguez. Returning from suspension, the tournament's top scorer drew a flying save from Alphonse Aréola with a thumping close-range effort.

Pierre Mankowski's France were the first team to reach the semi-finals in Estonia, however and showed why in the 26th minute. Umtiti turned in the loose ball after Osede had blocked Pogba's header from Jean-Christophe Bahebeck's corner.

It was the first time Lopetegui's team had fallen behind in the tournament and the coach responded by introducing Paco. The change produced the desired response with the Valencia CF forward, who struck twice against the Czech Republic in the 2011 final, picking out Deulofeu's run with a slick through pass; the attacker calmly dispatched past Aréola.

FC Barcelona forward Deulofeu was soon troubling the France defence again, advancing to unleash a shot that came back off the base of the post. Spain made their territorial dominance tell in the 78th minute, Paco finishing off Alejandro Grimaldo's left-wing cross with a smart volley.

Not for the last time, France refused to yield and another corner brought them level a minute into added time. Again it was Umtiti in the right place to find the net from close range after Axel Ngando's delivery had caused confusion.

Extra time brought yet more drama. Twenty-two minutes into it Jesé began a counterattack that flowed through Paco and finished at the feet of Deulofeu, who calmly lifted the ball in to restore the lead.

France were still not finished, and equalised again in the 117th minute. Alassane Plea blocked Jesé's clearance into the path of Lucas Digne and the cross was knocked in at the far post by Pogba. There was to be no escape in the shoot-out, however.