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Spanish stars shine bright once more

Victory in Linz confirmed Spain's status as the undisputed European kings of youth football as they added the U19 crown to the U17 title they had claimed in May.

With victory in Linz against Greece, Spain confirmed their status as the undisputed European kings of youth football, adding the UEFA European Under-19 Championship crown to the U17 title they claimed in May.

Solitary goal
Daniel Parejo's smart free-kick seven minutes before half-time proved to be the only goal at the Linzer Stadion, just as Bojan Krkić's solitary effort was enough to secure U17 glory against England in Belgium two months ago. Both triumphs were masterminded by Juan Santisteban, the 70-year-old coach claiming his eighth youth title in Austria as Spain equalled a feat achieved only once before - holding both UEFA's international youth titles in the same year. Santisteban follows in the footsteps of Brian Kerr who in 1998 guided the Republic of Ireland to U16 and U18 glory with teams featuring Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne and John O'Shea.

Modern stars
Whether the likes of Javier Martínez, César Azpilicueta and Aarón Ñíguez from Spain's U19s and the prodigious talent of Bojan in the junior side will go on to appear in FIFA World Cups and the UEFA Champions League like their Irish predecessors remains to be seen, but as the latest products of a conveyor belt of Spanish stars who have tasted U19 glory over the past six years their chances are certainly good. Since the competition changed from an U18 event to U19 in 2001/02 Spain have won four of the six tournaments staged. The 2002 vintage included the likes of Fernando Torres and José Antonio Reyes, in 2004 Sergio Ramos was in the starting lineup while last year's winning crop contained Gerard Piqué, who has just completed a successful season on loan with Real Zaragoza.

Aarón talent
If any of the latest batch of talent is to make the step up into the senior ranks then surely no one is more of a candidate than Aarón. The Valencia CF forward was a constant threat down the left in the run to the final – scoring twice in the group stage – and showed his danger once again in Linz. Greece's awareness of the danger he posed was obvious by the treatment he received in the opening minutes when Elini Dimoutsos earned the first yellow card of the night with a crunching tackle.

Good omens
Aarón refused to be cowed, however, and moments later was back terrorising the opposing back line, using pace and trickery to race into the box fire in a shot straight at Kyriakos Stratilatis. He may not have scored the winner but he played a key part in its inception, winning the free-kick from which Parejo cleverly curled in the only goal of the night. That sealed another memorable night for Spanish youth football and maybe, just maybe, set some more stars on their way to greatness.