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Hosts France celebrate Caen success

Published: Monday 2 August 2010, 17.52CET
France became the second successive UEFA European Under-19 Championship hosts to lift the trophy, fighting back to defeat Spain and gain belated revenge for their 2008 U17 final reverse.

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Published: Monday 2 August 2010, 17.52CET

Hosts France celebrate Caen success

France became the second successive UEFA European Under-19 Championship hosts to lift the trophy, fighting back to defeat Spain and gain belated revenge for their 2008 U17 final reverse.

Before Ukraine's 2009 triumph, no UEFA European Under-19 Championship had ended with the host nation celebrating victory. In 2010 France made it a second successive home triumph as a vibrant second-half final display overturned a half-time deficit against Spain in Caen.

With the two previous champions − Germany and Ukraine − eliminated in the elite round, Group A brought together 2009 semi-finalists England and France, Austria featuring for the first time since hosting the tournament in 2007 and debutants the Netherlands. Both were beaten first time out, the Dutch going down 4-1 against France while Austria lost 3-2 to England and, though the Netherlands then overcame England 1-0, Austria were overrun 5-0 by the hosts. France duly confirmed their semi-final place as group winners with a 1-1 draw against England, who sneaked through as runners-up thanks to Marco Djuricin's late penalty that gave Austria a 1-0 win against the Netherlands and a place in the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup at their opponents' expense.

In Group B, Spain were looking to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2007 and made a solid start, coming from a goal down to beat debutants Croatia 2-1. Portugal beat Italy 2-0 in a repeat of the 2003 final, the Azzurrini subsequently sharing a goalless draw with Croatia while Daniel Pacheco's late strike earned Spain a 2-1 win against Portugal and a place in the semi-final as group winners with a match to spare. There was to be no let-up on Matchday 3, however, Luis Milla's team brushing aside Italy 3-0 – including a remarkable Ezequiel Calvente penalty – to end their opponents' campaign. In Bayeux, Portugal needed only a point to reach the last four; instead, they were overwhelmed by a Croatia side who ran out 5-0 winners, Zvonko Pamić scoring a hat-trick.

The first semi-final, between Spain and England, took place in Saint-Lo and Milla's team quickly found their rhythm, Sergio Canales setting up Pacheco for a 12th-minute opener. A slick move ended with Keko rolling in a second and, though John Bostock promptly halved England's deficit, another superb Spanish routine made the game safe early in the second half, Thiago Alcántara flicking a free-kick over the wall for Canales to score.

Attention then switched to the Stade Michel-d'Ornano in Caen where the majority of the crowd suffered a shock in the fourth minute, Arijan Ademi heading Croatia in front. France steadily worked their way back into the match and were level eight minutes before half-time when Gaël Kakuta capitalised on Mario Tičinović's misdirected header, paving the way for Cédric Bakambu's late winner.

More than 20,000 returned to the stadium for the final against Spain and once more the majority were silenced early on, Pacheco's perfectly-weighted pass allowing Rodrigo to slide Spain into an 18th-minute lead. France again fought back strongly − the half-time introduction of Yannis Tafer revitalising their attack − and the substitute's through ball was converted by Gilles Sunu four minutes after half-time. The hosts, who had lost 4-0 to Spain in the U17 final two years earlier, kept pressing forward and were rewarded when Alexandre Lacazette came off the bench to score an 85th-minute winner, heading in Kakuta's cross to give France a first U19 title since 2005.

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