Léa Le Garrec's header was the difference between the sides as France kickstarted their UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship Group B bid with a cagey 1-0 win against Spain.
Neither team was able to threaten in the first half as temperatures soared in Skopje, and though the game remained tight after the restart, midfielder Le Garrec earned France their first three points of the campaign, putting them level with their opponents. They will now look to defeat the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Sunday and hope Spain fail to defeat the Netherlands.
France made the early running but they struggled to find a way through, with Angel Vilda Serrano's side content to attack on the counter. Indeed, it was from one such break that Naiara Beristain took the first shot of the game, a deflected effort that Laetitia Philippe – back from injury – gathered easily.
It took Les Bleuettes a long time to fashion their own first opening, but it was marked with a stamp of quality when it came as right-back Inès Jaurena jinked through the Spain ranks before releasing Marina Makanza, whose low drive did not trouble Sandra Paños. Moments later, Pauline Crammer snatched too eagerly at a good chance in front of goal.
At the other end, Spain were increasingly able to unleash their set-piece routines, carefully elaborated during training to exploit the failing that cost France against the Netherlands. From one corner in particular, María Galán came within centimetres of tapping in at the far post, but that proved the last spark of excitement in the half.
France coach Jean-Michel Degrange made a trio of changes at the interval and his charges continued to look brighter, with Makanza firing over after a characteristically lively run. Opportunities remained rare, but the breakthrough finally arrived with 69 minutes gone as Le Garrec looped a header past Paños from Marion Torrent's inviting right-wing cross.
Spain's response was spirited yet doomed, as Philippe kept her team in front with a pair of excellent saves from Esther Gonzalez, and as time ticked away Le Garrec almost plundered a second with a fierce effort stopped low down by Paños.
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