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La Rojita Ready For Italian Challenge

Later today, Spain and Italy’s Under 21 teams will contest the European Championship finals in Jerusalem, in a repeat of the senior final between La Furia Roja and the Azzurri in Ukraine last year.

Vicente Del Bosque’s team swept Italy aside in that game, making them the only national team in history to win three major tournaments in a row.

The Under 21s, La Rojita, have been equally imperious in Israel, with players like Isco, Alvaro Morata and Sergio Canales sweeping all before them.

They have reached the final unbeaten, and will start as heavy favourites to pass their way through Italy’s defence, in the manner that modern Spanish football dictates.

But Spain coach Julen Lopetegui, who was goalkeeper for Real Madrid and Barcelona during his playing career, says they will not take their Italian opponents lightly.

"I expect an Italy which will push us to the limit," Lopetegui said ahead of the game.

"[They were] a team with many alternatives in their attacking phases, and with very few gaps, or maybe none, in their defence. It is a final, against Italy. They have players with experience, of a very high level. We are tremendously excited. This is a final."

Meanwhile, all eyes will likely be on Isco, whose class has been evident all tournament long, and who will leave Malaga for either Real Madrid or Manchester City in the coming weeks.

Isco could jink his way into most senior first teams on the planet, and Lopetegui says he counts himself as lucky to have Isco in his team, alongside Spain Under 21’s other red-hot emerging talents.

"We know Isco like the rest of the players, they all have this quality and potential," he said.

"Individual talent must be at the service of the collective. We are delighted with Isco's performances, just as with those of all the players at this tournament."    

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