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Spain and Czechs share attacking ambition

Spain's Ginés Meléndez and Jaroslav Hřebík of the Czech Republic were keen to praise each other's side ahead of their final meeting, although both will be going all out for victory.

Spain coach Ginés Meléndez (left) and Jaroslav Hřebík of the Czech Republic with the trophy
Spain coach Ginés Meléndez (left) and Jaroslav Hřebík of the Czech Republic with the trophy ©Sportsfile

There was plenty of mutual respect between the coaches of Spain and the Czech Republic ahead of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final, although each emphasised that that conviviality covers a steely determination to triumph in Chiajna.

Ginés Meléndez's Spain are seeking their fifth victory in the competition – a result which would allow them to keep the trophy – while a Czech win would be their first U19 triumph, although coach Jaroslav Hřebík acknowledges overcoming Spain will be no easy task. "Everybody knows Spain are playing the best football in the world just now, and this team is the best in this tournament," he said. "We know how they play, and how their system works as we've watched them a lot, but it's hard to play against them although obviously we'll try to give them some problems."

Meléndez was equally keen to pay tribute to his final opponents, explaining: "The Czech Republic are a very good team, we respect them a lot. Their coaching staff have done great work and congratulations to them for getting this far, although we'll try our best to beat them. We have big expectations for this final, we're very confident and we want to win it – this game is going to mark a big step in the careers of these young guys."

One player who will have to watch from the sidelines is Real Madrid CF defender Daniel Caravajal, who was replaced late on in the 5-0 semi-final win against the Republic of Ireland. "He has a thigh injury and won't be available," Meléndez explained. "In these type of tournaments there's always someone who picks up a knock; I feel bad for Dani because he really wanted to play but no one is indispensable in the squad and we have lots of players who can cover each position. We really want to win although we have a lot of respect for our opponents."

Hřebík, whose team have won their last six competitive fixtures, has no such concerns, saying: "Everything is OK, the team is in good shape and we don't have any injuries, which is obviously good news. We're looking forward to the match. We'll play positively and will try to press them – but I'm sure Spain will put us under pressure so we'll have to be strong in defence as well.”

The Czechs certainly bristled with attacking intent from the off in their last game, racing into an early three-goal lead against Serbia and then holding on after their opponents quickly pulled two back to ultimately win 4-2. "Although there have been no weak sides at this tournament, every team had its strengths, perhaps our toughest opponent so far has been ourselves," explained Hřebík. "When that 3-0 lead disappeared, that was our most difficult moment." Having come through that unscathed, the Czechs will hope to cope with whatever Spain throw at them.

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