1. Adrian Lopez- After an unconvincing first match, Adrian has become one of Spain’s most impressive players. His first three goals were all taken well, but numbers four and five added importance into the equation.
Too often, major tournament’s hand out their golden boots to players who racked up goals in easy wins during the group stage, fortunately, Denmark’s U21 Euros will dish out their scoring honor to a big game goalscorer. Adrian’s first came with only a minute of the ninety left, as the number seven showed real desire in getting to the near post before the defender, to prod home a vital equalizer.
Just minutes later, he was at it again, heading home Diego Capel’s brilliant cross to put the Spaniards 2-1 to the good with fifteen minutes of extra time remaining. At the beginning of the tournament, it had seemed as though for all their pretty little patterns, Spain would always have problems putting the ball in the back of the net, Adrian Lopez has prevented Spain from becoming know for their lack of a cutting edge, since opening his account he has been in breathtaking goal scoring form.
2. Jeffren- Since the substitution was introduced into football, every great team has had that one man, the “super sub” who could come on and provide impetus to the attack, and help secure a result that at first had looked a tough ask. In Jeffren, Spain have found their man, a player capable of making an impact off the bench, and in the case of today’s game a vital, vital impact.
It takes real composure to produce a moment of brilliance at the end of a tight game, to provide your team with the edge when a match had looked beyond reach. However, Jeffren was able to do all that, his cross to the near post was tapped in by star scorer Adrian, as Spain found a crucial equalizer in the last minute of normal time.
If a last gasp assist wasn’t enough to secure a place on this list for Jeffren, then his howitzer of a goal in the final minute of extra time fully secured it. With the Belarussians running out of time for which to grab an equalizer, Jeffren put a little gloss on Spain’s semi final win, firing home a stunning strike from range which completed a 3-1 win. Certainly, Barcelona’s Jeffren has made a strong case to be included in the starting line-up for Spain’s upcoming final.
3. Muniain- Muniain rose to prominence this season after some truly impressive performances for Spanish club Athletic Bilbao, and he has continued to enhance his reputation with a series of strong showings in the Euro U21 Championships. However, it was only today that he stamped his name all over a game, Muniain was one of the best players on the pitch as Spain narrowly beat the Czech Republic.
An attacking player who can play on the wing or through the middle, Munian was a danger every time he got on the ball, dribbing past players with consummate ease, and finding intelligent, insicive passes. Though he didn’t score, Muniain was a constant threat to the Czech goal, buzzing around with intent, it was surprise to me that he didn’t eventually find his way onto the score sheet.
With a final approaching for the Spanish squad, players like Muniain will be crucial, if the Athletic Bilbao man complement his performances with goal, then Spain could be in business. Mind you, they could be in business anyway!
4. Admir Mehmedi- Goals from midfield are a valuable asset to any team, and this Swiss side has enjoyed a very fair serving of them. Crucial to that has been their number eleven, who once again stepped up to play a massive role on Wednesday night.
Deep into extra time and with the match seemingly destined for penalties, Mehmedi picked up the ball several yards outside the Czech penalty area, advanced, and slashed a shot across goal into the bottom corner of the net. A sumptuous goal on any occasion, but one made just that much more special by the circumstances it was scored in.
Against Spain, players like Mehmedi are going to be absolutely crucial to combating the Spanish possession game, Mehmedi will have to complement his goalscoring feats with a performance of steel and discipline.
5. Xherdan Shaqiri- It is impossible to leave this little man out. Despite not having any statistical impact on the game, it was his performances which eventually wore down the Czech rear guard. Shaqiri’s exquisite touch and turn, coupled with real pace, endurance and a laser like shot, forced the Czechs to double up on him, creating space for the likes of Mehmedi to produce some magic of their own.
By quite a long way, Shaqiri was the best player on the pitch, a danger every time the ball arrived at his feet. With the game drifting towards extra time, he almost won the match with a fabulous low shot from range, which agonizingly rebounded off the outside of the post.
Had that shot gone in, Shaqiri would have gained all the plaudits he deserved following a brilliant performance, however, for now at least, he has to step back and share some of the limelight with teammate Admir Mehmedi.