After winning the UEFA U-19 European Championship in 2006 and 2007 to bring their tally of continental titles to five, Spain's young but hugely experienced side were hoping to make it three in a row at the 2008 edition that doubled as the qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009. The nucleus of the current side were losing finalists at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007, and the squad also boasts several members who play their club football in the Spanish top flight or other major European leagues.
Not only did Spain fail in their bid to secure a third consecutive European crown last summer, they almost missed out on Egypt 2009 altogether. After emerging unconvincingly from their Qualifying round group, La Selección looked to have hit top form in the Elite round, where they took maximum points from their three games. However, their flaws were again exposed in the Final round, when defeats to eventual winners Germany (2-1) and tournament revelations Hungary (1-0) left them on the verge of elimination. In the end, though, a 4-0 win over Bulgaria in their final game ensured their presence in Egypt and went some way to making up for a disappointing campaign.
After steering his charges to a place in Egypt, coach Gines Melendez made way for Luis Milla, a former midfielder with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia. Milla hung up his boots in 2001, by which time he had won three league titles, three Copas del Rey and two Spanish Supercopas, and represented Spain three times at senior level. His first foray into coaching was as assistant to Michael Laudrup at Getafe for the 2007/08 season, which led to the 42-year-old's appointment to the coaching staff of the national youth teams last year.
With the rising star of Spanish football Bojan Krkic expected to miss out through injury, it will fall to several of his former team-mates from Korea 2007 to take a leading role. For instance midfielder Fran Merida, who has won a host of admirers with his vision and timely goals. Two more to keep an eye out for are Daniel Parejo - currently on loan from Real Madrid at Getafe - and Sergio Asenjo, currently first-choice goalkeeper at Atletico de Madrid.
- Spain claimed their one and only U-20 world title at Nigeria 1999.
- Of the sixteen editions held to date, Spain have been present at all but four: Mexico 1983, Chile 1987, Australia 1993 and Argentina 2001.
What they said
"It's important to learn from this experience. In many ways, you learn more when you lose than when you win. Mentally, I believe this tournament should make us stronger, so we'll see how we come back from this disappointment." U-20 Spain player Cesar Azpilicueta, referring to the 2008 European Championship
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