France fight back to claim U19 crown
Friday, July 30, 2010
France 2-1 Spain
The hosts came from a goal down to lift the trophy for the second time, Alexandre Lacazette heading an 85th-minute winner in Caen.
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France fought back from a goal down to defeat Spain in the 9th UEFA European Under-19 Championship final in Caen, Alexandre Lacazette coming off the bench to score an 85th-minute winner.
Francis Smerecki's team, bidding to become the second successive host nation to win the U19 title following Ukraine in 2009, were on the back foot from the first whistle and fell behind to Rodrigo's first-half strike. These teams also met in the European U17 Championship final two years ago – La Roja running out 4-0 winners – and a repeat looked on the cards after a dominant first-half Spanish display, only for Gilles Sunu to level four minutes into the second period. Just as the match looked to be heading for extra time France's second-half revival paid off, Lacazette heading in Gaël Kakuta's cross to give them the trophy for the second time.
Eleven of the 22 players who started here also began that U17 final and, as in Antalya two years ago, Spain swiftly took control. In the tenth minute clever interplay down the right from Martín Montoya and Keko worked an opening for Sergio Canales, who span sharply inside the penalty area only to shoot against the legs of Abdoulaye Diallo. France were struggling to get a foothold in the match and paid the price eight minutes later.
Daniel Pacheco had scored four goals coming into the final but showed there is much more to his game than simply finishing. There seemed little danger when the midfielder received possession inside his own half but he spotted Rodrigo's clever run and, one perfectly-weighted pass and an impeccable first touch later, the striker was sliding a low left-footed shot across the goalkeeper and into the net.
Spain continued to dominate both territory and possession, but their failure to increase their lead allowed Les Petits Bleus hope of a second-half recovery. Smerecki introduced Yannis Tafer in an attempt to give his attack more punch yet three minutes after half-time his side might have been two down, Diallo scrambling to deny Canales. Seconds later, Sunu headed the goalkeeper's long clearance to Tafer and raced onto the return pass, lifting his shot over Álex to equalise.
With a revived crowd behind them, France tried to press home their advantage and when Cédric Bakambu fed Tafer, Álex came to Spain's rescue, touching the shot behind at his near post. The goalkeeper then denied Kakuta after the latter had burst through, but he was powerless when the France midfielder regained possession and dinked a perfect cross to the far post for Lacazette to head gleefully in and make France champions.