By Paul Saffer
With Elvira Todua's decisive penalty save for Russia in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final, another UEFA season came to a suitably dramatic conclusion.
It began when Valencia CF defeated FC Porto 2-1 to win the 2004 UEFA Super Cup in August, and the Portuguese team then overcame CD Once Caldas on penalties to take the last European/South American Cup in December. The next competition, the UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup in Turkey, took place in February, matching the best under-18 teams from Europe and Africa. For the third edition running, UEFA's representatives avoided defeat in all 16 fixtures, France, Spain and Turkey winning four games each, and Portugal drawing with Sierra Leone and Egypt and beating Cameroon and Nigeria.
Appropriately, considering what was to come, Russia were involved later the same month in the first final of 2005, the UEFA European Futsal Championship decider in Ostrava. The inaugural 1999 winners, Russia met Spain in a rematch of that first final. Andreu, a 1999 alumnus, scored on nine minutes and just after half-time Alberto Cogorro doubled the lead. Konstantin Douchkevitch struck nine minutes from the end but Spain prevailed 2-1.
For the first time, Spain was not involved in April's UEFA Futsal Cup final - but a Russian club, MFC Dinamo Moskva, was. They lost the first leg 4-3 in Belgium against third-time finalists Action 21 Charleroi, and the next week in Moscow, Dinamo secured the identical scoreline to force extra time. With two of the ten additional minutes left, Dinamo led 9-8 on aggregate, but Kelson and Eder found the target to give Brazilian-flavoured Charleroi the crown.
Three days later the UEFA European Under-17 Championship began in Italy. Turkey lost their opener 1-0 to the hosts but stormed into the final, where they met the Netherlands. Deniz Yilmaz and tournament leading scorer Tefvik Köse struck early in the second half for a 2-0 Turkish win.
With Germany the dominant force in European female football, it was no surprise for 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam to win the UEFA Women's Cup at their first attempt. They took on fellow debutants Djurgården/Älvsjö in the final, and after winning 2-0 in Sweden secured a 3-1 victory in the return.
Dinamo may have watched their opponents parade the Futsal Cup in their home arena, but PFC CSKA Moskva, were to experience a happier feeling in the UEFA Cup final. Facing Sporting Clube de Portugal in their Estádio José Alvalade, CSKA trailed to a 29th-minute Rogerio goal but Aleksei Berezoutski, Yuri Zhirkov and Vágner Love scored in a 19-minute second-half period to secure Russia a first UEFA club trophy.
That comeback was to be eclipsed by Liverpool FC in the UEFA Champions League final seven days later in Istanbul. Paolo Maldini's 52nd-second goal and two from Hernán Crespo seemed to have given AC Milan the cup by half-time, but Steven Gerrard, substitute Vladimír Šmicer and Xabi Alonso turned the game around within six minutes, and in the shoot-out Jerzy Dudek saved Andriy Shevchenko's penalty to clinch victory.
Five venues not far from Liverpool were to stage June's UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™, and Germany and Norway were the finalists in Blackburn. Inka Grings and Renate Lingor put Germany 2-0 up before Dagny Mellgren pulled one back before the break. Captain Birgit Prinz then gave her side a decisive 3-1 lead for her and Germany's fourth consecutive triumph.
Early last month, representative amateur teams from eight nations competed in Poland for the UEFA Regions' Cup. Vasca of Spain took the crown, defeating South-West Region-Sofia with a 33rd-minute Alain Arroyo goal.
All that was left were the two U19 tournaments, both taking place in the last fortnight of July. The men's UEFA European U19 Championship was in Northern Ireland, and near neighbours England were to reach their only major final at any level since 1993. However, despite Lee Holmes giving them a half-time lead in Belfast, opponents France dominated and Mohamed Chakouri, Abdoulaye Balde and Yohan Gouffran goals proved decisive.
France also won the 2003 Women's U19 Championship, but although they reached Sunday's final in Hungary, Russia - who had already knocked out world champions Germany in the last four - were to pip Les Bleuettes 6-5 on penalties, despite twice losing the second-half lead in a 2-2 draw.
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