Our reporting team in Israel draw lessons from the WU19 EURO semi-finals, with shoot-out drama, diverging fortunes for star strikers and a rematch in the offing.
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Blackstenius has shades of Miedema
"We couldn't deal with No9 [Blackstenius]," rued Germany boss Maren Meinert. "Her height or pace?" I asked. "Both," came an immediate reply. The Linköping forward is spearheading Sweden's challenge in much the same vein as Vivianne Miedema did for the Netherlands last term. At times Germany found her unplayable. Having claimed an assist for Tove Almqvist's equaliser, Blackstenius scored with an imperious header and then – with the exit door wide open – slammed it shut late on to force extra time and take her tally to a record-breaking 18 for the season. Her penalty? Calmness personified.
Sweden v Germany had everything
Calle Barrling has seen a few games during his 11 years at the Sweden helm but Friday's semi-final in Netanya was, he concluded "the best youth game I've ever seen". It is hard to argue. The match had everything: an early breakthrough, a fantastic strike from Almqvist, a forward masterclass from Blackstenius, a second comeback, a late equaliser, a tactical battle, missed chances at both ends. And then penalties. Neither side deserved to lose but that, said Meinert, is football.
Lady Luck must be smiling …
The semi-final between France and Spain was perhaps the most competitive and evenly-matched game of the tournament, two great footballing nations slogging it out to the death. Spain edged through 5-4 in the shoot-out and coach Jorge Vilda admitted it was hardly a walk in the park. He said luck was on their side, and conceded that France were the better side at times. His players' pace, technical quality and eye for a goal, however, promise a fantastic final showdown against Sweden.
… but not on the unfortunate Léger
Marie-Charlotte Léger could not stem the tears after pressure and a knock took their toll as she missed the tenth penalty after nine successful conversions and France were sent crashing out of the WU19 EURO. It was cruel on the Montpellier striker, who was Les Bleuettes' leading light in Israel. She opened the scoring in Lod and for six promising minutes France were ahead. Her efforts were not forgotten by her team-mates, who rushed to join and console her during that agonisingly long walk from the spot.
Barrling v Vilda II
Three years on from Sweden's maiden WU19 EURO triumph in a sweltering Antalya, they will attempt to add a second crown in similar conditions in Netanya on Monday. Their opponents will be the same, Spain, and the surname of both coaches, too: Barrling and Vilda. In 2012, though, the man on the Spanish bench was Ángel; now it is his son, Jorge. Having led his country to new heights at U17 level, can Vilda Jr now do the same for the U19s having come so close 12 months ago?
Tickets for Monday's final cost 10ILS (€2.50) and are available either at the stadium or via this link. The site is in Hebrew.