Gerard Deulofeu was the star on the night with two goals and the decisive spot kick in the shoot-out victory against France, as Spain reached a third straight UEFA European Under-19 Championship final. But speaking to UEFA.com after the match, the FC Barcelona winger was quick to share the credit, “This isn’t a team, this is a family,” he said.
Julen Lopetegui’s side were pushed all the way by a determined France, who took the match to penalties after two Samuel Umtiti goals and an extra-time strike by Paul Pogba matched Deulofeu’s double and a Paco Alcácer effort. Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga then laid the foundations for Deulofeu’s match-winning moment after pulling off successive saves to deny Umtiti and then Geoffrey Kondogbia from the spot.
“I was fortunate enough to be the one to score two goals and the decisive penalty but we are collectively thrilled to have reached the final,” the FC Barcelona winger told UEFA.com. “I am just another player here in the team. We are so united that we are all leaders out on the pitch.”
After falling behind for the first time in the tournament in the 26th minute, Spain sought solace in the dressing room at the break and emerged in determined mood to put things right. “We had to work so much,” Deulofeu explained.
“When we were a goal down at half-time our coach told us that we had to really believe in ourselves and that he was in no doubt we were going to get through the challenge. It was a really hard game, though, as they kept pegging us back. In the end the coach was right and we are all so happy.”
Deulofeu scored in last year’s semi-final as well, his sole strike as Spain lifted the trophy for the fifth time, 12 months after he had got a goal in the U17 decider against England, who were to win 2-1.
After sending his team through to their third successive U19 final he said the inspiration behind the country’s success at this and previous youth tournaments is the peerless senior side, who have just set the benchmark for their younger counterparts by successfully defending the UEFA European Championship.
“The senior Spain side play wonderful football,” he said. “We try to play just as well as them and although sometimes that can be difficult, we are doing our best.”
A repeat of the 2007 U19 final against Greece awaits and Kostas Tsanas’s charges – who ousted England after extra time in their semi-final – will be familiar foes for Spain, who triumphed 2-1 when the teams met in the Group A opener on 3 July.
“Greece have a great team,” Deulofeu said. “In the first match against them we took a two-goal lead but they opened us up a lot after the break. This is a final now and although every game is different, I’m obviously hoping for the same outcome as before.”