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Thrilling group conclusion sets up U19 semis

France, England and Croatia have joined Spain in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals after a dramatic weekend with the last-four ties to be played in Saint-Lo and Caen.

Croatia celebrate a goal in their shock 5-0 win against Portugal
Croatia celebrate a goal in their shock 5-0 win against Portugal ©Sportsfile

The lineup for the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals is complete after a dramatic weekend in Basse-Nomandie.

Spain were the only team definitely into the last four ahead of Saturday's concluding group-stage games having won both their first two Group B matches. All the other seven teams could have joined them in the knockout stages, yet Italy's hopes were swiftly extinguished as they slipped to a 3-0 defeat against La Roja in Flers. Rúben Rochina and Daniel Pacheco gave Spain a two-goal half-time cushion before Ezequiel Calvente's marvellously inventive penalty completed yet another impressive win for Luis Milla's team.

The day's most remarkable result came in Bayeux, however, Franko Andrijašević's spot kick giving Croatia a 19th-minute lead against a Portugal side who needed just a point to progress. The finals debutants were 3-0 up by the interval thanks to a pair of Zvonko Pamić goals, the first a header and the second a viciously swerving free-kick from 30 metres. Croatia even shrugged off the loss of captain Renato Kelić to a red card early in the second period, the inspirational Filip Ozobić making it 4-0 two minutes before Pamić scored his third and Croatia's fifth. "It's a great day for Croatia," said coach Ivica Grnja. "This team has a bright future, both in this tournament and beyond."

The drama in Group A was of a different variety, France – all but through barring a mathematical miracle in Saint-Lo – taking a 56th-minute lead against England through Yannis Tafer. With the Netherlands goalless against Austria in Mondeville, Noel Blake's England were heading out but the Oranje – for whom Luc Castaignos twice struck the crossbar – were reduced to ten men by Leandro Bacuna's 80th-minute red card.

Seven minutes later Austria midfielder Georg Teigl was brought down by Ricardo van Rhijn as he advanced into the area and Marco Djuricin smashed in the penalty. That meant Austria overtook their opponents to earn a place in the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, England finishing second and rescuing a draw against the hosts with a Matthew Phillips equaliser three minutes into added time.

As Group A runners-up, England will play Spain at the Stade Louis Villemer in Saint-Lo, kicking off at 16.00CET. The Stade Michel-d'Ornano in Caen will be the venue for the game between France and Croatia, which gets under way at 19.00CET. Both games will be shown on Eurosport and covered live on UEFA.com.

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