AROUND THE NET, UEFA NEWS — July 14, 2012 at 6:17 am

Sweden and Spain await tense finale

Published Friday July 13, 2012

by Sam Crompton
from Antalya
Spain’s Ángel Vilda has predicted a “fiercely-contested” final against the “strongest side in Europe”, though Sweden counterpart Calle Barrling insists that, for now, the teams share that title.

In contrasting fashion the finalists have reached Saturday’s UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship showpiece. Spain’s probing, patient approach is passionately upheld at every level and while Sweden’s physical edge may prove decisive, their counterattacking masterclass is equally intriguing and mightily effective. Far from a clash of style, though, Calle Barrling highlights striking resemblances.

“We will play our usual game because it makes us very solid. We have a physical edge but I don’t think there is much difference between the sides,” he said. “They pass short but they can also go long. They have a good blend. For us, it’s about coping with both their ways of playing. They have so many good players. They are very skilful in every position. Like our team, each player has a different role. You have to be wary of all of them.”

Slight, dexterous and agile, Spain’s resolve will come under scrutiny but being drawn into a physical battle is a trap Vilda fears. “I expect it to be a fiercely-contested final. Both teams will try to impose their style of play on the game,” he said. “We will counteract their physical prowess by trying to shut down their main playmakers. But what we definitely can’t afford to do is compete with them physically because we will come off second best.”

Sharing a win apiece in three competitive meetings as well as last Sunday’s 0-0 draw in the group-stage dead rubber, the teams are inseparable and both coaches predicted an attractive encounter decided by small margins. “It will be a very tight game,” said Barrling. “My guess is that it will be more open because it’s a final and we both want to win. I think the more the game goes on the more chances we will see. There will be good football and chances for both sides.”

Meanwhile, Vilda says his impassioned players will have to dig deep to replicate their 2004 heroics. “The squad is very excited at the possibility of pulling off a great achievement which is what winning this title would be,” he said. “That’s particularly true because of the quality of our opponents. We feel Sweden are currently the best side at this level. So there’s a mixture of excitement and tension; we can hardly wait for the game to start. It will come down to who takes their chances.”

Tomorrow’s final will evoke humbling memories for Barrling, whose side fell at the final hurdle in 2009. Three years on and buoyed by optimism, the Sweden coach says his current crop of players are better equipped in every department. “There are similarities because that team had a lot of good players as well,” he said. “Maybe this team is at a higher level in all positions. We can vary our style. This time we have a more complete team.” We will find out in Antalya if that is enough.

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