Spain labour to last eight
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Spain finished first in Group C with a 2-1 win over Venezuela in Marabella in what looked like the European champions’ sternest test of these FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup finals in Trinidad and Tobago. Though they controlled possession throughout the contest and created most of the scoring chances, the Spaniards were put through a rigorous examination by a determined Vinotinto, who now depart the Caribbean.

Spain coach Jorge Vilda decided to shuffle his pack ahead of the contest, most notably opting to leave out the impressive Sara Merida. Venezuela, for their part, had all their starters on the pitch in what was a must-win game for them. The first half was played at a slow pace with both sides sweltering in the heat. The Spaniards dominated possession with the South American hopefuls trying to free their livewire striker Ysaura Viso on the break. However, the two-goal heroine from the opener against New Zealand was isolated for large portions of the opening period and wasn’t able to muster much in the way of scoring chances with the notable exception of a fierce volley after 17 minutes.

The Spaniards were moving the ball around with panache, but they looked lethargic in front of goal. Captain Amanda Sampedro took a pair of shots, first in the 20th and then in the 26th minute, but both flew well wide of the goal. They finally got it right in the 28th minute when Paloma Lázaro got on the end of her own rebound and placed the ball home for a 1-0 lead. There were to be no more goals in the half, but Spain were in the ascendancy with Sampedro and Lázaro looking dangerous out left and Laura Gutierrez nearly scoring with a header seconds from the break.

While Venezuela did their level best to get themselves back into the game, it was the Europeans that were always looking the more dangerous in attack and with the ball at their feet. Venezuela had a few chances of note, the most dangerous being Joemar Guarecuco’s volley in the 52nd minute and her follow-up long-range drive in the 57th, but both went over the bar. In the 74th minute the South Americans finally managed to get an equaliser, as Spain looked to be tiring in the heat. Viso crossed for Anna Alvarado, who slammed home from around the penalty spot.

The shock sent Spanish bodies forward into attack, and they finished off the contest seven minutes from time when Lazaro slipped into the box completely unmarked and slammed home a fine pass from Gema Gili to make the final score 2-1. Spain now move onto the quarter-finals where they will meet Brazil, while Venezuela – after beginning their finals so promisingly – are heading for home.