Netherlands defender Clint Leemans had a bittersweet first U19 appearance against Spain, opening the scoring but ultimately suffering a defeat that spelled elimination.
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On a high after scoring for the Netherlands against six-time Under-19 champions Spain, defender Clint Leemans told UEFA.com he is already targeting glory with his country at next year's finals in Hungary.
The Oranje failed to advance to the semi-finals in what was only their second UEFA European Under-19 Championship appearance with Group A defeats by Portugal (4-1) and Spain (3-2) ending their ambitions in Lithuania. Needing a win against the Spanish in Friday night's encounter in Alytus, Wim van Zwam's side took the lead through Leemans' 36th-minute opener but despite their immense physical effort, it was Luis de la Fuente's team who would eventually triumph following a late surge.
"We had a very good first half but the goals we conceded later were too soft," the PSV Eindhoven defender told UEFA.com. "Despite working really hard, it was just not our day. Our game plan was to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible and try to score. We managed to do so and even had chances to score another. It all went well until the middle of the second half when we conceded twice, but that's football."
Explaining that his coach had felt their positioning was "spot on" during the half-time team talk, the 17-year-old added that Spain's tactics ultimately paved the way to them advancing to the semi-finals as section winners. "We were dominating the Spanish before the break but in the second half they came out on top," he said. "They put a lot of pressure on our players and suddenly the game became very difficult for us."
Despite a solitary victory against hosts Lithuania to show for their efforts at the finals, Leemans insisted that both he and the Netherlands would look be back in the not too distant future. "Friday was my official debut for the Under-19 team as before I was playing for U18s," he said. "To have scored a goal on my debut felt really great.
"I also think I had a rather important role today, playing box to box against Spain, which is something they really don't like. Overall I can say that I was satisfied with my performance. I hope to come back next year and to help the Netherlands U19 team to become European champions. My ambition now, however, is to earn a regular starting place at PSV."