European Under-21 Championships: Spain Top Group, Russia Take Wooden Spoon
The European Under-21 Championships Group Stages are over, with Italy, Norway, Spain and Netherlands passing through to the semifinal stage.
Both of Wednesday's matches were played at the same time in case qualifying for the latter rounds came down to the final matchday, but really this was an exhibition—two qualified teams squaring off, two teams playing for pride.
Spain and Netherlands, both coming off the back of consecutive wins, were simply playing out for the top spot in Group B.
As such, La Furia Roja made several changes to their usual cast, while the Oranje changed their entire starting XI.
What ensued was a sticky opening 10 minutes, but soon after the Spaniards got their foot on the ball and began to play some characteristically dreamy football.
Thiago Alcantara and Isco were at the centre of it all, and Iker Muniain enjoyed a confidence-boosting game by collecting an assist.
The Dutch played good football in patches, but struggled to get their feet on the ball with enough regularity to have a say in the game. Any chances they did create, they squandered.
Russia 1-2 Germany
Germany went out swinging, finishing in third place with three points after beating Russia 2-1 at the Netanya Municipal Stadium.
Simply a battle to avoid the wooden spoon, the Russians took the upperhand early on after Alan Dzagoev finished neatly after some of the worst defending this sport is ever likely to see.
Die Mannschaft drew level soon after, though, as good work from Kevin Volland led to a cross that Patrick Herrmann gratefully turned home: A just reward for one of the best players on the pitch.
In the second half, Sebastian Rudy of Hoffenheim scored his second penalty on the tournament to gift his nation the win.
The semifinals, which will see Italy take on Netherlands and Spain battle Norway, are set to begin on Saturday, June 15. Check back for B/R's coverage of the events.
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