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Spain block Switzerland's path to new peak

Spain are hoping to complete a hat-trick of continental Under-21 titles when they take on a Switzerland side chasing their first triumph in Saturday's final in Aarhus.

Adrián López has been Spain's spearhead in attack
Adrián López has been Spain's spearhead in attack ©Getty Images

Spain are chasing a hat-trick of UEFA European Under-21 Championship titles as they meet a Switzerland side out to win their first in Saturday's final in Aarhus.

• Spain won in 1986 and 1998 and stand level in the tournament's all-time standings with USSR, Netherlands and England. Victory for Luis Milla's men would leave them second only to Italy, who have five successes to their name.

• Pierluigi Tami's Switzerland will have other ideas and enter their first U21 final high on confidence after four straight victories in Denmark. The Group A winners have yet to concede a goal and could make history as the first team to win this competition with their defence unbreached.

• Group B winners Spain, for their part, arrive at the final with three victories and a draw.

• Spain are playing in Aarhus for the first time; Switzerland have played here once before, beating Belarus 3-0 in their final group fixture.

Match background
• This is Spain's fifth U21 final and their record is two wins and two defeats:
1998 Won v Greece 1-0
1996 Lost v Italy 1-1 (4-5 pens)
1986 Won v Italy 1-2 a, 2-1 h (agg 3-3, 3-0 pens)
1984 Lost v England 0-1 h, 0-2 a (agg 0-3)

• Spain will hope to repeat their victory over Switzerland in their only previous U21 Championship encounter, in the play-offs for the last edition in Sweden. It was a close-fought contest, with a Spain side coached by Juan Ramón López Caro squeezing past Pierre-André Schürmann's Switzerland 4-3 on aggregate.

• The Swiss won the first leg 2-1 in Aarau on 11 October 2008. Sergio Busquets gave Spain the lead (18) but Johan Vonlathen equalised (27) and Adrian Nicki's 51st-minute strike gave the hosts the advantage.

• The lineups were (*at 2011 finals):
: Sommer*, Thiesson, Ziegler, Barmettler, Ferati, Schwegler, Crettenand, Lustenberger* (Stocker 63), Zambrella, Nikci, (Feltscher* 90) Vonlanthen (Ural 89).

Spain: Asenjo, Miguel Torres, Canella, Piqué, Javi García, Raúl García, Sisi, Busquets (Mario Suárez), Bojan*, Jurado (Xisco), Mata*. César Azpilicueta was an unused substitute.

• Three days later in Lorca, Spain turned the tables in dramatic fashion. Shkelzen Gashi (25) seemed to have dashed home hopes but half-time substitute Xisco made it 1-1 (51) and deep into added time Sisi levelled the aggregate score. Raúl García won the tie for Spain with eight minutes of extra time remaining.

• The lineups were:
Spain: Asenjo, Miguel Torres (Canella 59), Piqué, Chico, Azpilicueta*, Raúl García, Sisi, Javi García (Busquets 76), Mata*, Bojan*, Jurado (Xisco 46).

Switzerland: Sommer*, Thiesson, Ziegler, Barmettler, Ferati, Zambrella, Lustenberger*, Gashi (Basha 84, Ural 115), Crettenand, Nikci, (Feltscher* 76) Vonlanthen.

• The teams will meet in qualifying for the next U21 finals with ties in Spain on 14 November this year and in Switzerland on 6 September 2012.

• Spain have dominated Switzerland at senior level, winning 15 of their 19 meetings with three draws. Their only defeat came at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when a 52nd-minute Gelson Fernandes goal earned Ottmar Hitzfeld's side a 1-0 victory on 16 June in Durban. Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri was an unused substitute, as were Spain's Juan Mata and Javi Martínez.

• The nations' most recent encounter at junior level was on 31 May in an U19 elite round game in Lausanne, Spain winning 2-1 en route to next month's final tournament in Romania. Benjamin Siegrist was in goal for Switzerland before coming to Denmark.

• They have played in three other U19 qualifiers, Switzerland prevailing 2-0 on 7 October 2008 in Minsk and Spain winning 2-0 at home and 3-1 away in the 2001/02 preliminary round.

• In that 2008 encounter Diego Mariño kept goal for a Milla-coached Spain team, with David de Gea on the bench, while Switzerland's lineup included Philippe Koch and Amir Abrashi. That result took both teams through and in the end both won their elite round groups to reach the final tournament in Ukraine.

• At the U17 final tournament in Germany in 2009, a Switzerland side including Nassim Ben Khalifa, Siegrist and Granit Xhaka held Spain 0-0 to earn a semi-final place at their opponents' expense. Both teams advanced to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria where Switzerland emerged as champions with Spain third.

• Switzerland's Siegrist, Ben Khalifa, Patjim Kasami and Xhaka were in their country's U17 World Cup-winning squad.

• Milla is looking for his first international title with Spain having led the U19 side to the runners-up spot at the 2010 European finals.

• The following Spain players have all been involved in winning squads at international finals (*did not play):
FIFA World Cup, 2010 (South Africa): Javi Martínez*, Juan Mata*
Under-19s, 2007 (Austria): Daniel Parejo, César Azpilicueta, Mikel San José, Emilio Nsue, Javi Martínez*
Under-19s, 2006 (Poland): Juan Mata, Diego Capel, Jeffrén
Under-17s, 2008 (Turkey): Thiago Alcántara, Martín Montoya
Under-17s, 2007 (Belgium): Bojan Krkić, David de Gea

Under-19s, 2010 (France): Martín Montoya, Thiago Alcántara, Iker Muniain
FIFA U-17 World Cup, 2007: Bojan Krkić, David de Gea, Diego Mariño*

• In the 2007 U17 elite round, Spain beat Switzerland 1-0 with a Bojan strike on their way to qualifying and taking the title in Belgium. De Gea was in goal for Spain.

• In 2005 the countries' 1-1 draw in Sa Pobla, Majorca proved crucial in taking Switzerland to the U17 finals – while Spain missed out for the first time since the tournament's switch from a U16 event in 2001. Yann Sommer kept goal for Switzerland – understudied by Kevin Fickentscher – and Daniel Pavlović also started with Moreno Costanzo and Gaetano Berardi coming off the bench. Diego Capel played for Spain along with substitute Javi Martínez. Emilio Nsue was on the bench.

• Spain coach Milla earned three senior caps as a player, the second in a 2-1 win against Switzerland in Tenerife on 13 December 1989.

• Milla came up against Swiss clubs twice in two-legged ties as a Real Madrid CF player – a 6-1 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup success against FC Lugano in September 1993, and a 4-0 triumph against Grasshopper-Club in the UEFA Champions League in September 1995.

• Mario Gavranović scored FC Schalke 04's second goal in their 3-1 second-leg success against Mata's Valencia CF in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League round of 16.

• Xavier Hochstrasser lined up against Javi Martínez and Muniain when their respective club sides, BSC Young Boys and Athletic Club, squared off in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League third qualifying round. Although Young Boys won 1-0 in the first leg in Bilbao, Athletic were 2-1 victors in the return with Muniain hitting the decisive second away goal two minutes after stepping off the bench. François Affolter, injured for the final, played as a substitute in the first leg.

• Affolter, Hochstrasser and substitute Costanzo played in Young Boys' 2-0 home win against a Getafe CF side featuring substitute Daniel Parejo in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League group stage. All three Swiss appeared again in the return 1-0 defeat at Getafe but Parejo was absent.

• Koch was in the FC Zürich side beaten 5-2 at home and 1-0 away by Real Madrid in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League. Admir Mehmedi appeared as an 86th-minute substitute in Madrid.

• Kasami was in the US Città di Palermo side that defeated Victor Ruiz's SSC Napoli 2-1 in a Serie A match in Sicily on 23 April this year.

• Squad members eligible to play in the 2011/13 UEFA European Under-21 Championship:
Switzerland – 10: Amir Abrashi, François Affolter, Nassim Ben Khalifa, Fabio Daprelà, Pajtim Kasami, Philippe Koch, Admir Mehmedi, Xherdan Shaquiri, Benjamin Siegrist, Granit Xhaka
Spain – 6: Thiago Alcántara, David de Gea, Bojan Krkić, Diego Mariño, Martín Montoya, Iker Muniain

Switzerland news
• Mehmedi scored with six minutes left in extra time to send Switzerland into the final at the expense of the Czech Republic with a 1-0 win in Herning.

• After serving a one-game ban in the semi-final for two yellow cards picked up during the group stage, Xhaka is available again. Reserve centre-back Affolter is sidelined after sustaining a thigh injury on the morning of the semi-final.

• The Swiss squad were given a rare lie-in following their one-and-a-half hour coach trip back to their hotel from Herning. Hochstrasser, Jonathan Rossini and semi-final goalscorer Mehmedi spoke to reporters on Thursday afternoon before coach Tami gave his thoughts to the media. Fabian Lustenberger and Timm Klose, who sustained dead legs against the Czechs will be fit to play in Saturday's final.

• Switzerland's semi-final success means they will compete in the 2012 Olympic football tournament in London – 84 years after their last participation at the Amsterdam Games in 1928. It will be only the third time the Swiss have played in the Olympic football tournament after finishing runners-up in Paris in 1924.

• Switzerland's flawless record in the group stage augurs well. In their two previous tournament wins they achieved a similar clean sweep in the group stage – at the 2009 U17 World Cup and the 2002 UEFA European U17 Championship.

• That latter campaign was in Denmark and like now, Switzerland scored one, two and three goals in group matches – albeit in a different order nine years ago.

• Teams are allowed three players older than the 1989 birth date cut-off for the Olympics. "[Yann] Sommer and Lustenberger would definitely be there," said coach Tami, leaving one over-age place still available. Nine of the current squad would be over the age limit for the Games.

• The Swiss squad are whiling away their spare time playing table tennis and table football.

Spain news
• Spain left it late to rescue their campaign when Adrián López made it 1-1 in the 89th minute of the semi-final against Belarus. He added a second in extra time before Jeffren Suárez completed the scoring.

• With his two goals against Belarus, Adrián is well placed for the competition's adidas Golden Boot. The RC Deportivo La Coruña forward now has five goals, two clear of Mehmedi with team-mate Mata one of four players with two strikes to their name. Of that quartet, only England's Danny Welbeck is no longer in the tournament.

• Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Ángel María Villar Llona and sporting director Fernando Hierro attended Thursday's light training session for the players who did not feature against Belarus. Those who did play went to a spa in Herning. In the afternoon, captain Javi Martínez, Capel and Alberto Botia faced the media in a press conference, Spain's busiest of the finals.

• True to their passing style, Spain have recorded more possession in their games than any other team – 59% against England, 66% against the Czech Republic and 64% against Ukraine. The 73% possession they enjoyed in their semi-final against Belarus is the greatest in these finals to date.

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