Under-21 Euros: Rodrigo and Asensio are missing out
Spain went to the Under-21 Euros in Italy with the minimum aim of making the semi-finals, as this would qualify them for the Tokyo Olympics. They've managed that, and done well to - after all, they started off with a defeat to the hosts that left the distinct feeling that they had suffered an injustice. The level of brutality the Italians were allowed to get away with that night was something you don't see too often these days. However, Luis de la Fuente's men dusted themselves down and bounced back to top the group, while results elsewhere meant that Italy, with more than a smattering of poetic justice, went out after coming second. And having set up last night's semi against France, Spain then proceeded to give a virtuoso display, winning 4-1 - despite once more having to overcome an early setback.
Because after a quarter of an hour they fell behind to a penalty that was somewhat harsh, not least in view of the fact that the referee had just waved away Spanish appeals at the other end, despite France's Fodé Ballo-Touré denying Dani Olmo the ball with his hand. Once they had conceded, though, Spain kept their composure and simply let their footballing intelligence, and the quality of their players, do the rest. Of particular note are the threesome of Betis youth products: Junior Firpo, Fabián Ruiz and Dani Ceballos. They catch the eye even in a group brimming with talent, and offer food for thought on how tough today's game is on clubs who do things the right way only to be stripped of the jewels in their crown.
Rodrigo, Asensio should have gone - but they're not being missed
The final will be on Sunday, against Germany. They won out yesterday against a Romania side who started well, and with a Hagi (the son of the legendary player) and a Puscas (nothing to do with the Hungarian) in their ranks, certainly had the neutral in their thrall. But after converting a penalty that surely wouldn't have been given the other way round - that's something that not even VAR can change - the Germans finally prevailed. Thus far, Spain have been absolutely fantastic; now they are tasked with capping their campaign. Rodrigo Hernández and Marco Asensio didn't want to go to the tournament, and I think they're really missing out. The guys who are there are enjoying their football and boosting their standing throughout Europe. Thankfully, Spain haven't felt the missing pair's absence one bit.