The 7th UEFA European Under-19 Championship was full of surprises from the outset with Belgium, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Austria and Scotland all failing to survive the qualifying round. The pattern continued into the Elite round, Hungary ousting Portugal and Bulgaria also qualifying for the first time – although the other teams who booked their places in the final tournament in the Czech Republic were more familiar.
The 2003 champions Italy were the last team to qualify, edging out their 2005 equivalents France, yet both they and England made a slow start to Group B, the Azzurrini needing a late penalty from Alberto Paloschi to salvage a 1-1 draw against 2007 runners-up Greece while two goals from Tomáš Necid gave the nine-man Czech Republic victory against England. The Matchday 2 Greece-Czechs and England-Italy fixtures both ended goalless, meaning all four sides could still qualify, and England gave themselves a fighting chance with a 3-0 win against Greece. Progress depended on Italy failing to beat the Czechs, but a dramatic 4-3 victory left Italy top of the section, one point above the Czech runners-up, with England having to settle for a place in the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Four-time winners Spain went into their opening Group A game against Germany unbeaten in 22 competitive U19 fixtures, but goals from Richard Sukuta-Pasu and Ömer Toprak condemned the holders to their first defeat since April 2005. Hungary, 1-0 winners against fellow final debutants Bulgaria in their first game, then snatched victory by the same scoreline thanks to Oliver Nágy's late strike, and Spain's unexpectedly early elimination was confirmed when Germany dismantled Bulgaria 3-0. Spain did at least end with a win, beating Bulgaria 4-0, while Germany clinched first place with a 2-1 win against section runners-up Hungary.
The first semi-final pitted Italy against Hungary, and it took just one goal to separate them, Silvano Raggio's perfectly-weighted pass allowing Italy substitute Fernando Forestieri to slide in. The second match was equally tight, Sukuta-Pasu finally settling it in Germany's favour in the final minute of extra time after Necid had cancelled out Marcel Risse's opener.
Horst Hrubesch's side picked up where they had left off in the final in Jablonec, Lars Bender lashing in the opening goal in the 24th minute and, although Germany lost captain Florian Jungwirth to a second yellow card before half-time the lead was doubled a minute past the hour through Sukuta-Pasu. Italy were then also reduced to ten men when Matteo Gentili was dismissed and, despite Raggio halving the deficit, Timo Gebhart promptly headed in to secure the title. "We were the best team in the tournament," said Hrubesch. "We've won all five games in the finals, so we deserve to be European champions."
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.