Spain and the Czech Republic are meeting in the U21 group stage for the third time as they conclude Group B in Celje.
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Spain and the Czech Republic meet in the final tournament of a UEFA European Under-21 Championship for the third time in the concluding round of Group B games at the Stadion Celje.
• While Spain have reached the final in four of the last five editions of the competition, winning three of them, their Czech opponents are looking to reach the knockout rounds for the first time in a decade, their last two finals appearances having ended in the group stage.
• Spain are top of Group B having picked up four points from their two games, beating co-hosts Slovenia 3-0 before a goalless draw against Italy last time out. The Czechs, who have drawn 1-1 against both Italy and Slovenia, an 86th-minute own goal from Nik Prelec denying them victory in the latter match, are level on points with Italy, one above Slovenia.
• Spain will go through if they avoid defeat against the Czech Republic, or if Italy fail to beat Slovenia. Spain would win the group with victory, and also with a draw unless Italy won by three goals or more. If Spain and Italy end level on goal difference and goals scored, they will be split by disciplinary ranking then coefficient.
• The Czech Republic will go through if they beat Spain. They also go through if both games are drawn but they score the same number of goals as Italy; if both games are drawn and Italy score one more goal than the Czech Republic they will be split on disciplinary ranking then coefficient. If both the Czechs and Italy win, they will be split for first place on overall goal difference, then goals scored, then disciplinary then coefficient.
• The teams have met in six U21 fixtures, Spain recording five wins and a draw. This is their first meeting since a 2-0 Spain win in the group stage of the 2011 finals, Adrián López scoring in each half (27, 47) to secure the points on Matchday 2; both teams progressed from Group B to the semi-finals, Spain going on to lift the trophy in Denmark.
• Their last fixture before then was also their only other finals meeting, Albert Luque's 90th-minute equaliser rescuing a 1-1 Matchday 1 draw for Spain in Trenčín on 27 May 2000 after Tomáš Došek's 55th-minute strike had seemingly given the Czechs victory. The Czechs went on to finish first in Group A on seven points, two ahead of Spain, and progressed directly to a final that they lost 2-1 to Italy; Spain beat hosts Slovakia 1-0 in the third-place play-off.
• Spain eliminated the Czech Republic from the 1996 quarter-finals, winning 2-1 in both Granada and Prague with Raúl González scoring twice in the away leg. Spain were ultimately beaten on penalties in the final by Italy.
• The visitors were also 2-1 victors in Prague in qualifying for the 1998 competition, Fernando Morientes getting the first goal. Spain won the return fixture in Burgos 4-0 en route to claiming their second European U21 title.
• 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.
• 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 4-1 in the semi-finals.
• Spain have lost only three of 38 European U21 Championship games (W30 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 have now not conceded in 639 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 19 of their last 23 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.
• Karel Krejčí's side finished top of qualifying Group 4, picking up 21 points from their ten matches to edge out Croatia by a single point at the top of the section. Defeated only once, 2-0 away to Scotland, they made sure of first place with a 2-0 win in Greece in their final qualifier.
• Winners in 2002 with a squad including Petr Čech, Milan Baroš, Zdeněk Grygera, David Rozehnal, Jan Polák and Tomáš Hübschman – who all amassed more than 50 senior caps – the Czech Republic are in the final tournament for the seventh time. Runners-up in 2000, they were knocked out in the group stage in 2007 and, as hosts, 2015, but reached the semi-finals in 2011.
• The Czechs' most recent appearance came in 2017, when they finished bottom of a section including Italy, eventual winners Germany and Denmark in Poland. They picked up three points, beating Italy 3-1 on Matchday 2 either side of defeats by Germany (0-2) and Denmark (2-4).
• Czechoslovakia reached the U21 quarter-finals on six occasions, but never went any further in the competition.
Links and trivia
• Brahim Díaz scored the opening goal in AC Milan's 3-0 home win against Sparta Praha in the UEFA Europa League group stage on 29 October 2020. He was also a late substitute in the Italian side's 1-0 win in Prague on 10 December.
• Ladislav Krejčí came on at half-time in Sparta's home loss to Milan.