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Sampedro ignites Spain challenge

Amanda Sampedro set Spain on their way to semi-final triumph and ahead of Saturday's decider – on her 17th birthday – she told UEFA.com: "Every player dreams of playing in a final."

Amanda Sampedro in action against the Netherlands
Amanda Sampedro in action against the Netherlands ©Sportsfile

Spain's conclusive victory over the Netherlands to reach the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final on Tuesday contained an array of positive elements, both tactically and individually.

Last year's runners-up looked an excellent unit with their movement, poise, pace and power in setting up a potentially enthralling final against the Republic of Ireland – conquerors of holders Germany – at Nyon's Colovray Stadium on Saturday. One of the architects of Spain's success was captain Amanda Sampedro, who impressed with her verve and passion in midfield, as well as a calm head when she pounced on a rebound to score the opener.

That repeated her feat of 2009, when she struck the first goal in their 2-0 last-four defeat of Norway. Sampedro is one of five survivors from last year's squad and the CDE Atlético de Madrid Féminas player is determined to use that experience as motivation on Saturday, her 17th birthday.

"Last year it was my first experience of a final tournament," Sampedro told UEFA.com. "I have great memories of it, because you can't find a better atmosphere or a better football level anywhere else. The advice I would give my team-mates is to enjoy this moment, as we will not often have the chance to be play in a European tournament."

Sampedro was relieved to make the breakthrough against a stubborn Netherlands rearguard. "It is always a great feeling to score, but to get the opening goal in a tournament like this, and set your team on their way to victory in the process, makes it even better," she said.

"We played very well in the semi-final but as a team you are always striving to do better and we'll be trying to take our performance up a level in the final," Sampedro added. "We didn't know what to expect against the Netherlands – we'd only seen bits and pieces of them – but we were able to settle down and play our game once we'd got the opening goal."

Once the celebrations had died down, thoughts turned to Ireland. "We are enjoying the experience here and we are enjoying the victory against the Netherlands," said Sampedro. "But we are focusing only on the final and we are really going to go for it. Every player dreams of playing in a final, so all the girls will be desperate to play on Saturday."