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Coaches confident for Saint-Lo showdown
Spain coach Luis Milla said his players were fully aware they were "close to achieving something important" at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship although with a semi-final against England ahead there is no room for complacency.
The four-time winners go into Tuesday's encounter with Noel Blake's side on the back of a perfect Group B campaign, Croatia and Portugal both beaten 2-1 before Saturday's impressive 3-0 dismissal of Italy. Milla suggested the growing euphoria within the squad will serve La Roja well in Saint-Lo, telling UEFA.com: "It's normal that the players are on a high after what they've achieved so far at this tournament but they also realise the importance of playing a semi-final where there is much at stake."
With defender Martín Montoya available again after a one-match suspension, Milla has a full squad to choose from. He insisted that whoever is selected will need to be on top form if Spain are to continue their unblemished semi-final record at this level following wins in 2004, 2006 and 2007. "We know we must take certain things into account as England are a very dynamic, physical team who have pace and good technical ability," Milla explained, going onto outline the strengths of his own side. ""As a team we have a certain personality and a set way of playing. This gives us opportunities to attack our rivals" and we want to continue along this line."
England, victors against France at this stage a year ago, fought back from a goal down to salvage a point against the same opponents in the final round of Group A games, displaying a resilience their coach believes will stand them in good stead. "You're always looking to improve on your previous performance and being 1-0 down to the hosts is always difficult but we kept going and to get a draw with the last kick of the game shows what we're all about," Blake said. "Now we look forward with confidence; it's a big game for the lads but we believe in them."
Midfielder Dean Parrett is suspended while there are doubts surrounding Nathan Baker, Reece Brown and Jacob Mellis. Scott Malone has replaced Matthew Briggs in the squad as the latter has a hamstring injury. "That's part of tournament football and you have to learn to cope with it; you find out if players can do a job in a different position," Blake added. "Spain are a very good side, they're a leading nation at youth level as they are with the seniors at the moment. It's a difficult task but the biggest thing for us is to perform. If we play to the level we expect, we've generally been OK."
Date: 2010-07-27 09:56:12