International Matches - Under 21

Spain 1 - Sweden 1

Spain: Riera; Angel (Corona 73'), Pablo, Jarque, Del Horno; Parri, Arteta; Valdo (Iraola 63'), Jorge (Villa 63'), Riera; Rubén Castro. 4-2-3-1.
Sweden: Isaksson; Stenman, Gerrbrand, Antonsson, Dorsin; Farnerud (Stefanidis 82'), Johansson, Jönsson, Kallström, Hysen; Ishizaki (Hysen 65'), Elmander. 4-4-2.

1-0. 22. Rubén Castro. Turned ball past Isaksson from Riera's low cross.
1-1. 69. Hysen. Took Kallström pass and shot low across Riera from left of area.

It was not all joy for Spain on Wednesday night. Whilst their first team were up in Norway qualifying for the Euro 2004 finals, their under 21 side were knocked out of their European competition at the play-off stage by Sweden, a double blow as they will not now be able to defend their silver medal in next summer's Olympic Games.

The youngsters needed to pull back a two goal deficit from the first leg, and were missing the three key players who had seen them through comfortably at the group stage, Fernando Torres, Reyes and Xabi Alonso, all of whom were achieving greater things in Oslo (although in the end Torres and Reyes didn't get off the bench in the second leg against Norway). Even so they seemed to be well on the way when Rubén Castro turned in Riera's cross midway through the first half, leaving them needing one more to level the tie. But visiting keeper Isaksson proved to be a wall for the rest of the first half, stopping three or four chances, most from an excellent Riera.

Jorge had the best chance of the night though immediately after the restart, but Isaksson was there again to deny him, and Rubén just failed to find the target soon afterwards after the keeper couldn't hold on to Del Horno's shot. But the killer blow came twenty minutes from the end, substitute Hysen finding room on the left to run on to Kallström's pass and drill a low shot past Riera into the net. That left Spain needing to score three more, a task which was too much even though Del Horno did hit the post with a free kick.

The game deteriorated in the final minutes as the frustration got too much for the local players, petty brawls breaking out all over the place, and Arteta got himself sent off after he was spotted by the referee elbowing an opponent on the back of the head in an off-the-ball incident. It was a sad end for the Spanish players, many of whom will have played their last match for the under 21 side, and the European finals and the Olympics will both be missing one of the most successful teams at youth level in the world.