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Spain vs Portugal: Under-21 EURO background, form guide, previous meetings

Having each needed extra time to win their quarter-finals, neighbours Spain and Portugal now meet in their first knockout game since 1994.

Spain are aiming for a third straight final
Spain are aiming for a third straight final AFP via Getty Images

Iberian neighbours Spain and Portugal meet in their first UEFA European Under-21 Championship knockout fixture in 27 years at the Ljudski vrt in Maribor.

• Both sides needed extra time to make it through their quarter-finals, Spain seeing off Croatia 2-1 before Portugal finally got the better of ten-man Italy, prevailing 5-3 in an epic contest.

• The winners of this tie will face Germany or the Netherlands in the final on 6 June in Ljubljana.

Previous meetings

2017 highlights: Portugal 1-3 Spain
2017 highlights: Portugal 1-3 Spain

• This is the sides' fifth competitive meeting, and their first since the 2017 group stage. Goals from Saúl Ñíguez (21), Sandro Ramírez (65) and Iñaki Williams (90+3) earned Spain a 3-1 win in Gdynia despite Bruma's 77th-minute strike for Portugal; Spain went on to the semi-finals as Group B winners with a maximum nine points, with runners-up Portugal eliminated on six.

• Portugal were 2-0 winners against Spain in the 1994 semi-finals in Nîmes thanks to second-half goals from Rui Costa (48) and João Pinto (82).

• Portugal also prevailed when the two countries faced off in the play-offs for the 2002 finals, despite losing the away first leg 2-1 in Jaén on 10 November 2001. Pablo Couñago (25) and Xisco (81) scored for Spain but it was Hélder Postiga's 32nd-minute strike for the visitors that proved crucial; Hugo Leal's solitary strike in the Faro return took Portugal through on away goals.

• The Portugal line-up for those 2001 matches included José Bosingwa, Simão, Miguel and Tiago; Xavi Hernández, José Reina, Carlos Marchena, Vicente Rodríguez and Joaquín Sánchez all played for Spain.

2019 U19 final highlights: Portugal 0-2 Spain
2019 U19 final highlights: Portugal 0-2 Spain

• Tomás Tavares, Vitinha, Fábio Vieira and Gonçalo Ramos were in the Portugal side beaten 2-0 by Spain in the 2019 European U19 Championship final; Hugo Guillamón, Juan Miranda, Antonio Blanco, Abel Ruiz and Bryan Gil featured for Spain.

• Miranda's 41st-minute goal had been cancelled out by a Fábio Vieira equaliser four minutes into the second half in a 1-1 draw between the countries in the group stage of that U19 EURO.

• João Virgínia, Diogo Queirós, Florentino and substitutes Diogo Leite and Gedson Fernandes helped Portugal to a 2-1 U19 friendly win against Spain in November 2017. Iñaki Peña, Miranda, Fran Beltrán and substitute Ruiz were in the Spain side.

• Francisco Conceição opened the scoring in a 2-2 draw between Portugal and Spain in a U18 friendly on 11 December 2019. Tiago Tomás was a Portugal substitute with Alejandro Francés and Yeremi Pino starting for Spain.

2016 U17 final highlights: Portugal beat Spain
2016 U17 final highlights: Portugal beat Spain

• Abel Ruiz scored the first goal from the penalty spot as Spain beat Portugal 2-0 in the 2017 European U17 Championship elite round. Álvaro Fernández, Miranda, Guillamón and Antonio Blanco were also in the Spain team, while Portugal's line-up included Tiago Djaló and Romário Baró.

• Portugal prevailed 5-4 on penalties in the 2016 U17 EURO final against Spain, Diogo Dalot's 27th-minute opener in Baku cancelled out five minutes later by Brahim Díaz. Both players also converted in the resulting shoot-out, with Diogo Leite and Gedson Fernandes also scoring from the spot for Portugal and Ruiz doing likewise for Spain. Goalkeeper Diogo Costa, Diogo Queirós, Jota, Florentino and substitute Rafael Leão also represented Portugal, with Iñaki Peña in goal for Spain. Luís Maximiano was an unused Portugal replacement.

Form guide

Highlights: Spain 2-1 Croatia (AET)
Highlights: Spain 2-1 Croatia (AET)

Spain
• Spain have won five U21 EURO titles, a joint competition record along with Italy.

• 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.

• Spain are in the semi-finals for the tenth time – and the fifth in the last six editions of the competition. Their record is W8 L1, with victories in the last six:
1984 Yugoslavia W 3-0 aggregate (1-0 away, 2-0 home)
1986 Hungary W 5-4 aggregate (1-3 away, 4-1 aet home)
1994 Portugal L 0-2
1996 Scotland W 2-1
1998 Norway W 1-0 (aet)
2011 Belarus W 3-1 (aet)
2013 Norway W 3-0
2017 Italy W 3-1
2019 France W 4-1

• 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 2019. 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 in the semi-finals.

Extra-time hero Puado on Spain win
Extra-time hero Puado on Spain win

• Spain have lost only three of 40 European U21 Championship games (W32 D5) – 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 finished on 28 points, ten ahead of North Macedonia at the top of Group 6.

• Spain have won 21 of their last 25 matches at the final tournament (D2 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.

• Spain qualified unbeaten for the knockout phase as Group C winners, picking up seven points from their three games thanks to wins against co-hosts Slovenia (3-0) and the Czech Republic (2-0) either side of a goalless draw with section runners-up Italy.

• Substitute Javi Puado's 66th-minute goal looked set to earn victory in the quarter-final against Croatia, but Spain conceded their first goal of these finals deep into added time to be forced into extra time. Puado came to their rescue with a 110th-minute winner.

• Spain conceded only one goal – a penalty – in qualifying, which gave them the best defensive record; no other team conceded fewer than four. They had not conceded in 819 minutes of competitive football before Croatia's goal – also a penalty – in the quarter-finals. The last goal Spain conceded in the competition from regular play was in that 2019 final against Germany.

Highlights: Portugal 5-3 Italy (AET)
Highlights: Portugal 5-3 Italy (AET)

Portugal
• Portugal are the only one of the four semi-finalists who have never won the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

• Portugal's last finals appearance came in 2017, when they were eliminated after finishing second in Group B behind Spain. They were victorious against Serbia (2-0) and North Macedonia (4-2), but that 3-1 loss against their Iberian neighbours on Matchday 2 proved crucial.

• Rui Jorge's side lost the 2015 final to Sweden in a penalty shoot-out on their first appearance in the tournament since 2007. They had also been runners-up in 1994 and quarter-finalists two years later. Subsequently the Portuguese came third in 2004, yet have otherwise been eliminated in the final tournament group stage – in 2002, 2006 (as hosts), 2007 and 2017.

• In charge since 2010, Rui Jorge guided his side to second place in Group 7 in qualifying for the 2021 finals. Portugal finished level with the Netherlands on 27 points, a 4-2 away defeat by the Dutch in their third fixture leaving them behind their opponents on head-to-head record in the final standings. Portugal won their other nine qualifiers, including the last seven, finishing with a 2-1 home victory against the Netherlands. They had the best record of all nine group runners-up.

• Portugal have now won 13 of their 27 games at U21 EURO final tournaments (D7 L7) and are now on a run of 11 successive victories in the competition, qualifying included.

Mota on Portugal success
Mota on Portugal success

• Portugal finished first in Group D with a maximum nine points, beating Croatia (1-0), England (2-0) and Switzerland (3-0). Their goal difference of +6 was the joint best in the group stage along with Denmark.

• Portugal had been one of three sides, along with Denmark and Spain, to come through the group stage without conceding a goal but promptly shipped three against Italy in the last eight, goals from Dany Mota (6, 31) and Gonçalo Ramos (58) giving them 2-0 and 3-1 advantages they were unable to preserve. It took goals in the second half of extra time from Jota (109) and Francisco Conceição (119), with Italy reduced to ten men, to finally book Portugal's progress to the last four.

• This is Portugal's third U21 semi-final, where their record is W2 L1:
1994 Spain W 2-0
2004 Italy L 1-3
2015 Germany W 5-0

• The 5-0 defeat of Germany six years ago is Portugal's biggest win at the UEFA European Under-21 final tournament.

U21 EURO Skills Showcase
U21 EURO Skills Showcase

Links and trivia
• Ruiz put two goals past Diogo Costa as Braga won 3-2 at Porto in the Portuguese Cup semi-final second leg on 3 March, wrapping up a 4-3 aggregate victory. Ruiz finished as the competition's top scorer with seven goals as Braga lifted the trophy thanks to a 2-0 victory against Benfica in the final.

• Ruiz also scored past Diogo Costa in Barcelona's 2-1 win against Porto in the 2016/17 UEFA Youth League quarter-finals.

• Two Gonçalo Ramos goals were not enough to prevent Benfica losing 3-2 against Antonio Blanco's Real Madrid in the 2019/20 UEFA Youth League final.

• Have played together:
Brahim Díaz & Rafael Leão, Diogo Dalot (AC Milan 2020/21)

• Have played in Spain:
Jota (Valladolid 2020/21 loan)
Tomás Tavares (Alavés 2020/21 loan)

• Has played in Portugal:
Abel Ruiz (Braga 2020–)

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