England quashes Spain to win the UEFA European U-21 Championship
The 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championship saw the rise of England as the Three Lions ambushed Santi Denia’s Spain 1-0. Despite numerous challenges and harsh criticism, Lee Carsley eventually managed to lead the young English side to European glory for the first time since 1984.
Head coach, Lee Carsley decided to make a few formational changes in the side before the biggest challenge. Hence, he went with the unorthodox 4-2-3-1 formation with Anthony Gordon leading the line ahead of the attacking trio of Emile Smith Rowe, Morgan Gibbs-White, and Curtis Jones with Cole Palmer and Angel Gomes supporting the framework of circulating the ball.
In defense, James Garner and Max Aarons were keeping an eye on the Spanish attacker as wingbacks while Levi Colwill and Taylor Harwood-Bellis were the authoritative full-backs, supported by James Trafford in the net.
On the flip side, Santi Denia went into the final with a similar formation and tactics as the semi-final. With Arnau Tenas in the nets, Aitor Paredes and Jon Pacheco had the responsibility to safeguard the goals with Juan Miranda and Víctor Gómez on the sides.
Antonio Blanco and Álex Baena were playing as the box-to-box midfielders while Sergio Gómez, Oihan Sancet, and Rodri were given attacking and playmaking duties as Abel Ruiz was leading the pack.
As both nations entered the Adjarabet Arena for the conclusive battle, all the young players looked keen to portray their astounding skills on the big stage. When the match started, Spain looked extremely composed playing on short passes. However, as soon as Palmer got the possession in the 4th minute, England started teasing the opposition’s defense as Carsley’s men were exhibiting incredible offensive aptness in Spain’s box.
La Furia Roja’s defenders had a lot of work to do as they were held on full stretch by the English offense. However, with consecutive attacks, the Three Lions dominated Spain in the initial 20 minutes.
Then, in the 24th minute, the first booking of the final match was witnessed as Gomes saw yellow after he took down Baena. Consequently, after the initial 25 minutes of hardship, La Furia Roja finally started irritating the English defenders. Following the same, Gibbs-White also received a warning from their referee for his aggression in the 28th minute.
Moreover, as the first thirty minutes concluded, it became evident that the battle of tactics was on a roll. Later on, Sergio Gomez, Rodri, and Abel Ruiz displayed great precision to make a couple of intense chances in the 34th minute. However, following a few tackles, injury concerns were flamed on the lone Spanish target man, Abel Ruiz but once he got back on his feet, the game got underway again. Just a few minutes again, the play was again stopped as Anthony Gordon looked in pain.
After the referee cleared all his concerns, the match started again and Gordon started from where he left. As five minutes were added to the Injury time, the English attack hammered La Furia Roja’s defense with brilliant through passes. As the Three Lions derided Spain too much in their box, Jon Pacheco attempted a foul. Palmer was awarded a free-kick from a dangerous spot and he managed to find Colwill but his header only got to the goalpost.
However, the Manchester City player kept the possession and after ridiculing the opposition, he was again on the ground following a tackle. Another free-kick was awarded to Palmer and this time, his shot found Liverpool’s Curtis Jones who stomped the ball into the net leaving Arnau Tenas bamboozled. Consequently, the first half ended with a tussle among the young players.
As the second half started, Spain tried their best to equalize but all of their attempts were outright going in vain. However, in the 53rd minute, Spain scored a disallowed goal. La Furia Roja was trying to make something out of the set pieces but consequently, fouls were not letting them get an upper hand over the opposition.
The Spanish defenders were getting too aggressive on the by-line and as a result, they were not able to shift the pressure. Consequently, fresh legs were introduced in the match as Veiga, Aimar, and Riquelme were brought in the match by Santi Denia in the place of Sancet, Baena, and Rodri. In the 65th minute, Gordon managed to find Gibbs-White with a volley in front of the goal but the Nottingham Forest player eventually failed to control the ball.
Lee Carsley also made the first change on his side by subbing in Madueke in the place of Smith Rowe in the 67th minute. However, when it finally seemed like Sergio Gomez has found an opening with a brilliant cross across the line, Ruiz played the ball straight into the hands of Trafford, moreover, Gibbs-White saw a yellow card following his antics during a heading attempt.
In the 79th minute, the Spanish coach also got booked for complaining about a potential foul. However, England’s shot-stopper, Trafford was constantly denying all the possible attempts made by the Spanish attack.
Carsley signalled his side to get into a defensive setting while Spain was trying to get a breakthrough by hook or by crook. In the 89th minute, Sergio Gomez again made a cross that looked promising but ended up going wide as six more minutes were added to the match.
England suddenly started playing a possession game and making the Spanish players even more desperate to find an opening. Thus, in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Abel Ruiz got the ball and made a run straight towards the English goal and when he was about to take the shot and was tackled by Colwill resulting in a penalty in favor of Spain.
Nevertheless, as Ruiz took the kick from the spot, it was heroically saved by Trafford. After the penalty, the rebound, and even the third shot were saved by the young goalkeeper as he guided his side to the ultimate victory.
However, despite being substituted, Gibbs-White ended up seeing a red card. Thus, the match ended in the most dramatic way possible as all the English supporters rejoiced following the win.