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Spain and Ireland eye golden chance

With Germany eliminated, finalists Spain and the Republic of Ireland have the chance to make theirs the second name on the UEFA European Women's U17 Championship trophy on Saturday.

Ireland manager Noel King (left) and Spain coach Jorge Vilda both have one goal in mind
Ireland manager Noel King (left) and Spain coach Jorge Vilda both have one goal in mind ©Sportsfile

A new name will be written on the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship trophy when Spain and the Republic of Ireland contest Saturday's final at the Colovray stadium in Nyon.

The 13.30CET kick-off pits last year's runners-up Spain against a Republic of Ireland side fresh from defeating holders Germany, who won the first two stagings. Spain, 3-0 conquerors of the Netherlands in their semi-final on Tuesday, have the added incentive of making amends for losing last summer's final by a resounding 7-0 to Germany.

Jorge Vilda, whose father was at the helm last year, believes his charges are ready to achieve success. "There is the ambition and the hunger," said the 28-year-old on Friday. "And what I have sensed today is that the girls are starting to really concentrate on tomorrow's game. The focus is right."

Vilda also dismisses any favourite's tag attached to his team following Germany's elimination. "We are trying to go into this final with humility, as we know Ireland are difficult opponents," he said. "Anything can happen in a final, one small detail could decide it." The Spanish camp, which contains five survivors from last year's squad including captain Amanda Sampedro, reports a clean bill of health after striker Raquel Pinel overcame a knock.

Ireland are similarly well tuned, with manager Noel King's main concern since Tuesday's momentous 1-0 win against Germany being to avoid injury. Irish feet have returned to the floor yet confidence remains sky-high. The squad, the first from their nation to reach a major women's final tournament, have even received a letter from Ireland's president Mary McAleese.

"As soon as the final whistle went in the semi-final, everybody's mood changed," said King. "We spent 24 hours up in the air. It is a marvellous achievement and there's no point trying to dampen the enthusiasm."

If Megan Campbell's strike against Germany marked a breakthrough for Irish women's football – securing a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup place alongside both Spain and Saturday's third-place play-off winners, as well as the possibility of a first female national-team title – it also prompted the country's leading broadcaster to join Eurosport in showing the final. "Hopefully the fact they are screening it live will ignite interest at home," King noted.

However, the manager recognises that his players still have to show their credentials on the biggest stage available to them. "You never know how good you are until you have played the best," he said. "The question now is whether Spain are the best. Everybody knows about the Irish fighting spirit, but I don't think passion and bravery will be enough, because the Spanish are technical, clever, quick. My team don't understand how good Spain are – equally they don't appreciate how good they are themselves."