Craig reflects on his lesson

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Scotland's defeated youngsters were trying to think positively yesterday in the wake of their European Under-21 Championship semi-final defeat by Spain.

The young Scots, who were bidding to reach the European final for the first time, were given a master-class, in particular by the teenaged prodigy Ivan de la Pena, in a 2-1 defeat in Barcelona on Tuesday night.

De la Pena justified all his rave revues - and the reputed pounds 1m salary he is already getting from Barcelona - culminating in a brilliant 35th- minute goal from a 30-yard free-kick.

But now Tommy Craig's team must pick themselves up to play France on Friday in the third place play-off and the defeat has served only to strengthen their resolve.

The Celtic striker Simon Donnelly admitted the Spanish were a class outfit, but added: "The boys feel that, in an attacking sense, we didn't play and it's disappointing because we know we can do better. So we intend to put that right on Friday against France. We want to finish third. That is the best we can now do and that's what we'll be aiming for. It's not going to be as exciting as being in a final but we can raise ourselves."

De la Pena created an early opening goal for Oscar, but the Scots came roaring back to level matters midway through the first half with a header from Arsenal's Scott Marshall.

But that man De la Pena had the final word - leaving Donnelly to admit that the Spanish playmaker is one of the best talents he has ever seen.

"I don't think I've ever seen a free-kick that moved so much," said Donnelly, whose version of events was backed up by goalkeeper Derek Stillie.

The Aberdeen keeper, who will set a new caps record for Scottish goalkeepers at this level when he takes the field against the French in the Olympic Stadium on Friday, insisted he had little chance with De la Pena's sensational strike.

He said: "The bend that De la Pena put on the ball was phenomenal. The free-kick started off looking as if it was going three yards outside the post before coming in."