Spain hope last year's experience will help them achieve UEFA European Women's U17 glory this time around – but semi-final opponents the Netherlands promise a stern test.
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The bitter pill of defeat in a European showpiece is always hard to swallow – but for Spain, last year's UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship experience will serve them well in this season's finals. No less than five of the squad that lost 7-0 to Germany in the 2009 decider are back wiser and more determined that it will be their year.
Coach Jorge Vilda will also have learned a considerable amount – his father, Angel, guided Spain to last year's runners-up spot in this competition, so Vilda Jr will have the inside track on Women's U17 finals week. The first hurdle is a semi-final against the Netherlands at the Colovray stadium, Nyon.
It is not a challenge to be taken lightly – the Netherlands may have missed out on qualifying twice, but still remain unbeaten at this level. "The Netherlands is a country where women's football has developed a lot in recent years," said Vilda. "They are qualifying more for final tournaments, they have not won any titles yet, but I'm convinced they will be one of the best teams to come in Europe."
Vilda foresees a tactical battle in the first of Tuesday's two semi-finals, which kicks off at 14.30CET. "Strategy will be very important," he said. "Set pieces, corners or free-kicks could be decisive." The young Spaniards also know that victory over the Dutch will book them a place in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago in September.
"Our main objective is to qualify for the World Cup," says Vilda. "The three best teams directly qualify for the World Cup, so if we win [on Tuesday], we achieve that. Then, if we have the chance to play the final, we will be very motivated to try and win."
Dutch coach Maria van Kortenhof is satisfied with the fine form which has brought her team to the last four. "I'm very happy we have qualified, we have played very well in the first and second qualifying rounds," she told UEFA.com.
"We have seen Spain twice, they are a very good team with many players who took part last year. They have a lot of experience, and they are very technical." Good organisational qualities in defence and quick attacks will be paramount in countering the Spanish threat.
The Netherlands are also eyeing a World Cup berth – but the Oranje youngsters have more immediate aims. "We are here to win the final," their coach insists. "I also know all the players are thinking about Trinidad and Tobago, but it's most important to reach the final."