It seems as though Spain is dominate at every level and in every tournament these days. That continued in the final Group A game at the U-20 World Cup for the Spaniards on Thursday, as they easily dispensed of France, winning 2-1.
The Group of Death—Ghana and the United States were also in Group A—hasn't seemed to bother Spain all that much, as they've now won all three games in the opening stage.
Paco Alcacer and Jese would score for Spain, while Thibaut Vion would manage to get France on the board in second-half stoppage time.
France was at a major disadvantage before the game even began, as star player Paul Pogba was ineligible to play after receiving yellow cards in two consecutive games.
France would have two decent chances to score in the early going, as Axel Ngando would attempt a shot on goal in the eighth minute and Florian Thauvin would follow with one of his own a minute later. But keeper Dani Sotres was up to the task on each effort.
Spain responded with a chance of their own in the 12th minute, as Jese sent a blistering effort across the face of the goal. But Alphonse Areola made a brilliant save, sprawling to his right and deflecting the dangerous effort wide of the goal.
Spain would strike first in the 22nd minute. Jese was played down the right flank with a lovely through ball and brilliantly cut back into the box, freeing up space to maneuver. He slid a centering feed over to Paco Alcacer, who guided a shot into the left side of the goal.
Yaya Sanogo had a nice chance on a corner kick in the 42nd minute, getting his head on the cross, but he was falling backwards just as he met the ball and sent his attempt over the bar.
Spain nearly doubled their lead in the 45th minute. Jese cut in on his right foot in the box and ripped a low shot that Areola just got a hand on and deflected onto the bar. The ball bounced back into play and away from danger, keeping France within striking distance heading into the second half.
It was a pretty disappointing half for France, as Dermot Corrigan of ESPN noted:
HT Spain 1-0 France in U-20s. Spain prob should be even further ahead. France big names [Digne, Sanogo, Thauvin, Kondo etc] not in it at all— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 27, 2013
Jese would get his goal in the 56th minute. Saul Níguez Esclapez's over-the-top pass would spring him down the center of the pitch after a French defender couldn't clear the ball to safety. Jese would keep his poise, however, controlling the ball before calmly sending a strike past Areola to double Spain's lead.
Geoffrey Kondogbia fancied himself a shot in the 74th minute just inside the box, cutting into a dangerous position on his left foot, but his driving effort only managed to hit the side of the post and careen out of play.
France again came close to cutting the deficit in half in the 84th minute, but Youssouf Sabaly's missile from the right side of the box skimmed over the top of the crossbar and out of play.
While France created a few chances in the second half, Spain largely put them to sleep down the stretch, to borrow a wrestling term. The Spaniards did what they do best—controlled possession, pressured the ball and clogged up passing lanes.
Still, in stoppage time, France broke free on the counter, with Sanogo bursting down the right flank. He centered a pass for Vion, who managed to control the ball in front of a Spanish defender and sneak his shot into the back of the net.
But it was too little too late, as France couldn't muster a second tally, leaving Spain with three points they thoroughly deserved.
Man of the Match: Jese, Spain
Spain was pretty clinical in this match, making it hard to single out just one player, but there wasn't a footballer on the pitch more dangerous than Jese in this contest.
He scored the team's second goal (his fourth of the tournament), nearly had one earlier in the contest when his shot was blocked onto the bar, and regularly kept himself in threatening positions throughout.
It was an impressive showing from the Real Madrid man, and one that may convince Los Blancos fans that Gonzalo Higuain is expendable after all.
Both of these teams will advance to the knockout phase. Spain won the group with nine points, and the loss didn't affect France's second-place standing on the table after the United States loss to Ghana, 4-1. France will move on despite finishing with just four points from their first three games.