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Norway aim for historic win against Spain

Holders Spain have won all three of their previous competitive meetings with Norway, who are in the Under-21 semi-finals for the first time since losing to La Rojita in 1998.

Norway are looking to make it to their first final at U21 level
Norway are looking to make it to their first final at U21 level ©Sportsfile

Holders Spain will look to take another step towards retaining their UEFA European Under-21 Championship crown when they take on Norway in the first semi-final in Netanya.

Group B winners Spain arrive at the semi-final stage unbeaten – and yet to concede a goal – in Israel but will not be underestimating Group A runners-up Norway, who have also not tasted defeat and reached the last four for the first time since losing to La Rojita at this stage in 1998.

Previous meetings
• Spain have won all three of the nations' competitive encounters, starting with that 1-0 success in the 1998 semi-finals in Bucharest, where Víctor Sánchez scored the only goal four minutes into extra time.

• José Ignacio Sáez's Spain went on to win that year's final against Greece while Norway had the consolation of a third-place victory over the Netherlands. The Norway coach that year, Nils Johan Semb, is with the squad in Israel in his role as Football Association of Norway (NFF) technical director.

• Spain also ended Norway's hopes in the November 1999 play-offs for the 2000 final tournament. La Rojita came from behind to win the first leg in Oslo 3-1, as goals from Xavi Hernández, Francisco Farinós and Gerard López overturned the first-half lead given the hosts by John Carew.

• Spain's victory was even more comprehensive in the return leg in Santander where Raúl Tamudo, Gerard, Albert Luque and Jordi Ferrón earned them a 4-0 success.

• For Norway, the pattern of losing to Spain continued in the sides' friendly meeting in Toledo on 21 March this year. Although Håvard Nielsen scored early for the visitors, Spain scored two quick goals through Cristian Tello before adding three more in the second half from Rodrigo, Sergio Canales and a Jonatan Tollås own goal. Flamur Kastrati completed the scoring with a late consolation for Norway.

• The lineups were:
Spain: Joel; Montoya, Bartra (Amat 61), Íñigo Martínez (Nacho 54), Muniesa (Moreno 69); Koke (Deulofeu 46), Illarramendi (Camacho 54); Tello (Sarabia 61), Thiago, Muniain (Canales 54); Rodrigo (Álvaro 61).
Norway: Nyland; Linnes, Rogne, Tollås, Skjelvik; Berget (Borven 56), Svensson (Ibrahim 64), Singh; Elabdellaoui, Pedersen, Nielsen (Kastrati 46).

Match background
• Unbeaten in 24 competitive matches, a run which includes 22 wins, Spain are looking to win the U21 trophy for the fourth time after previous triumphs in 1986, 1998 and 2011.

• For Spain this is the seventh U21 semi-final and they have a strong record at this stage with five wins from the previous six.

• Norway have never reached the final of any UEFA age-group men's tournament before and lost their one previous U21 semi-final against Spain.

• The winning side will face the winners of the Italy v Netherlands semi-final in the final on 18 June at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium.

Team ties
• Marc Bartra, Thiago Alcántara, Rodrigo and Tello were in the Spain team held 1-1 by Norway in the elite round of the 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Turkey. Vegar Hedenstad, Omar Elabdellaoui, Markus Henriksen and Stefan Johansen all featured for Norway.

• Julen Lopetegui experienced Norwegian football as a player for Rayo Vallecano de Madrid in the 2000 UEFA Cup first round against Molde FK. The Spain coach played 90 minutes as the capital club triumphed 1-0 in Scandinavia but was an unused substitute in the return leg which finished 1-1.

• In the elite round of the same competition three years earlier, Tor Ole Skullerud led a Norway team including Håvard Nordtveit who were beaten 5-2 by Spain on home ground in Fredrikstad. Their conquerors went on to lift the U19 trophy that year.

• Thomas Rogne was an unused substitute for Celtic FC in last November's 2-1 UEFA Champions League loss at Camp Nou to an FC Barcelona side containing Bartra and substitute Tello. Like Rogne, Martín Montoya watched from the bench.

• Jo Inge Berget and Anders Konradssen featured for Strømsgodset IF in a 2011/12 UEFA Europa League qualifying defeat by eventual winners Club Atlético de Madrid in 2011. Johansen was an unused substitute in the away leg in Spain.

• David de Gea and Joshua King were together at Manchester United FC between summer 2011 and January this year but never played together in the first team.

Penalty shoot-outs
• Spain have contested a penalty shoot-out in the final stages of a U21 tournament twice before. They beat Italy 3-0 on penalties in the 1986 final after a 3-3 aggregate draw, but then lost the 1996 final 4-2 on spot kicks against the same opponents after a 1-1 draw.

Spain news
• Ignacio Camacho was forced off against the Netherlands with a sprained ankle but is expected to be available to face Norway.

• Álvaro Morata ended the group stage as the leading scorer in the tournament with three goals. The Real Madrid CF striker was also top scorer when Spain won the 2011 UEFA European U19 Championship.

• Netherlands midfielder Adam Maher attempted to swap shirts with Thiago Alcántara after Wednesday's game, but needed the help of the Spain press officer to walk away with the captain's jersey.

Norway news
• The day after securing their place in the semi-finals, the Norway squad relaxed with an afternoon visit to the West Bank and Jerusalem. In the evening national coach Skullerud, along with three other members of the NFF delegation, went to Petah Tikva to watch Spain beat the Netherlands and set up Saturday's semi-final meeting with the Scandinavians.

• The squad had a stroll along the beach near their Tel Aviv hotel on Thursday morning before training at Ramat Gan in the evening.

• Skullerud has no serious injury concerns in the wake of Tuesday's draw with Italy – when he made nine changes to his starting XI – and should have a full squad to choose from.