Co-hosts Slovenia face a baptism of fire on their finals debut as they take on holders and five-time champions Spain.
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Co-hosts Slovenia face a baptism of fire on their UEFA European Under-21 Championship debut as they take on holders and five-time champions Spain at Maribor's Stadion Ljudski vrt.
• While Slovenia are making their first finals appearance, Spain joined Italy on a record five titles by lifting the trophy on Italian soil two years ago and have reached the final in four of the last five editions of the competition, winning three.
• This is the first time Slovenia have met Spain in a European U21 Championship fixture.
• Indeed, this is only the second time the teams have crossed paths. Spain were 3-0 winners in a friendly on 15 October 2002, Jorge Larena (11, 56) scoring twice before Javier Portillo (65) wrapped up the win.
• Fran García, Manu Morlanes, Abel Ruiz and Pol Lozano were in the Spain side that drew 0-0 against Slovenia, whose side included Adis Hodžić, Vanja Drkušić, Žan Celar and Vitja Valenčič, in the European U17 Championship elite round on 13 March 2016.
• Ruiz scored Spain's goal from the penalty spot in a 1-1 draw against Slovenia in the European U19 Championship elite round on 20 March 2019. Álvaro Fernández, Juan Miranda, Hugo Guillamón, Eric García, Ferran Torres and Sergio Gómez, who was sent off, also played for Spain; David Zec and Egzon Kryeziu were in the Slovenia side.
• Slovenia and fellow hosts Hungary are the only sides to be making their debuts at the 2021 tournament.
• Slovenia's most successful U21 campaign came in 2006, when they reached the qualifying play-offs only to lose 2-0 on aggregate to eventual champions the Netherlands (0-0 h, 0-2 a).
• In the qualifying campaign for the 2019 finals, a team coached by Primož Gliha – who was replaced by current boss Milenko Ačimovič in November 2020 – finished second in their qualifying section, 12 points behind France, having picked up 16 points from their ten games (W4 D4 L2).
• Slovenia have drawn their last two competitive U21 matches; a 2-1 home win against Kazakhstan on 11 September 2018 is their only victory in their last six European U21 Championship fixtures (D3 L2).
• This is Spain's eighth appearance in the U21 final tournament since 1998, and a sixth in the competition's last seven editions. They have only failed to get past the group stage once in those eight participations, in 2009, and have reached the final in each of their last four, lifting the trophy in 2011, 2013 and 2019.
• Current coach Luis de la Fuente – who succeeded Albert Celades in July 2018 – led Spain to a 2-1 final victory against Germany in Udine in 2018. His side had finished first in Group A, level with hosts Italy and Poland on six points but top in the three-way head-to-head, before beating France 4-1 in the semi-finals.
• Spain have lost only three of their last 36 European U21 Championship games (W29 D4) – against Italy on Matchday 1 at the 2019 finals (1-3), in qualification at home to Northern Ireland on 11 September 2018 (1-2) and Germany in the 2017 final (0-1).
• De la Fuente's team won nine of their ten qualifiers in booking their place at the 2021 finals, dropping points only in a 1-1 draw in Israel on 19 November 2019. They won their next five qualifiers, keeping a clean sheet in each, and have not conceded in 459 minutes of competitive football. They finished on 28 points, ten ahead of North Macedonia at the top of Group 6.
• Spain conceded only one goal – a penalty – in qualifying, which gave them the best defensive record; no other team conceded fewer than four.
• Spain have won 18 of their last 21 matches at the final tournament (D1 L2); the 2019 defeat by Italy was their first in the group stage since a 2-0 reverse to England on 18 June 2009.
• De la Fuente also led Spain to the 2015 UEFA European Under-19 Championship title in Greece.
Links and trivia
• Slovenia have never beaten Spain in a competitive international at any level; their record across all age groups is D2 L4.
• Slovenian clubs have enjoyed slightly more success against Spanish opponents, winning two of their ten matches (D3 L5). Olimpija Ljubljana were 2-1 winners at home to Espanyol in the 2000/01 UEFA Cup first round first leg – although they lost the tie on aggregate after a 2-0 away defeat – before Maribor enjoyed better fortune against Villarreal in the 2007 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round, recording a 3-2 aggregate victory that included a 2-1 first-leg success in Spain.