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Patience rewarded for jubilant Asensio

Marco Asensio said he knew his moment would come – and "it turned out perfectly" – after his late double against France gave Spain a dramatic semi-final victory.

Spain's match winner Marco Asensio (left) celebrates with Dani Ceballos
Spain's match winner Marco Asensio (left) celebrates with Dani Ceballos ©EPO

Before this UEFA European Under-19 Championship, Marco Asensio was considered Spain's top prospect at this age having been signed by Real Madrid in December and scored six times in 33 starts with home-town club Mallorca last season. On Friday, the winger proved what all the fuss is all about, registering two spectacular solo goals in the closing stages against France to take Spain into the final.

The strikes displayed Asensio's excellent technique and great pace and had him understandably jubilant afterwards, even if he admitted it had taken him some time to make his mark in the tournament. "I've always believed in myself, I knew my moment would eventually come – and it did," he said. "I was lucky that everything turned out perfectly and these goals gave us victory over France and a place in the final."

Coach Luis de la Fuente described Spain's semi-final showing as "a complete match" and Asensio added: "It was a great performance, we competed very well and finally the two goals came and decided it. We're very happy to remain alive in this tournament and to be given the opportunity to play in the final. Hopefully we'll be able to complete our work nicely with a victory over Russia on Sunday."

With the teams level at 0-0 until the 88th minute, everyone in the stadium – players included – began to think this fourth Spain-France U19 semi-final would, like its three predecessors, go the distance. "The semi-final was very even and, to be honest, we had already started thinking about extra time," Asensio added. "We knew the match would be decided by details. We stole the ball and launched the counterattack. Our second goal also was from a counterattack and gave us the chance to finish it off."

Highlights: France 0-2 Spain

Spain had scored early against Germany, Russia and the Netherlands in the group stage but slowed in the second half of all three encounters, whereas against France, De la Fuente's side struck at the end. "We had a tough time physically in the group matches, but we're feeling better with every game," Asensio said. "We have to keep working as we have done to win the European title."

To claim Spain's seventh U19 crown Asensio and his team-mates will have to overcome opponents who beat them 3-1 on matchday two. "We must avoid repeating the errors we committed in the group stage meeting with Russia," the attacker said. "In that match, we lost the ball easily in midfield and dropped back after scoring the opener.

"If we pay attention to these things, our talent and team work will shine through. That is the way to approach this final. Our main asset is team spirit, being close and united. Now the only thought in our heads is to defeat Russia and lift the trophy."