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Spain have history on their side

Published: Saturday 29 May 2010, 11.01CET
Spain have been the dominant force in the junior European competition over the years and ahead of Sunday's U17 final with England, UEFA.com looks back at their proud history.
by Paul Saffer
from Vaduz
Spain have history on their side
Spain made it eight U16 and U17 titles in 2008; Sunday will be their 13th final ©Sportsfile
Published: Saturday 29 May 2010, 11.01CET

Spain have history on their side

Spain have been the dominant force in the junior European competition over the years and ahead of Sunday's U17 final with England, UEFA.com looks back at their proud history.

While England have never won the UEFA European Under-17 Championship or its U16 predecessor, their opponents in Sunday's final, Spain, have dominated this competition − Iker Casillas, Fernando Torres and Bojan Krkić among those to have lifted the trophy over the years.

Their first final was in the fourth edition of the then U16 event in 1986, when they met Italy in Athens and won 2-1. Two years later Spain made the final again, this time on home soil, and after a 0-0 draw with Portugal in Madrid, they won 4-2 on penalties to become the first nation to take the trophy twice.

Former Real Madrid CF player Juan Santisteban took the Spain helm and over the next two decades was to taste unprecedented success. In 1991 Spain took on a newly-unified Germany in the final in Berne and Antonio Robaina scored twice to secure a 2-0 win. A year later these nations were matched again in Cyprus, but this time Germany prevailed 2-1.

In 1995 the U16 finals were in Belgium, and just as 12 years later in the same country, Santisteban led Spain to the final – though they went down 2-0 to Portugal. Better was to follow in Germany two years later as Spain took on Austria and won 5-4 on penalties after a goalless game, a young Casillas between the posts.

The Czech Republic staged the 1999 finals and Spain, with another future star in goal − Pepe Reina − won through to play Poland for the trophy and prevailed 4-1. England in 2001 marked the last tournament before the reclassification to U17 level, and it was appropriate that Spain marked the change with their sixth U16 title. Nearly 30,000 were present in Sunderland as France were defeated by a 76th-minute Torres penalty.

However, Spain tasted defeat in their first two U17 finals, both against host nations: 2003 in Portugal and the next year in France, where a team including Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué lost 2-1 to a last-gasp Samir Nasri goal. Spain finally added an U17 title in 2007 with a 1-0 victory against England in Belgium courtesy of Bojan.

No nation have previously won the U17 event more than once but 12 months on Spain did so on a special night against France in Antalya, Santisteban's last game in charge. After a truly stunning 4-0 win he said: "Twenty years in this job and I can say I have never seen a final played in such a magnificent fashion."

Santisteban may have retired but replacing him was his assistant Ginés Meléndez, who had been in charge of the Spain U19 teams that won the 2004 and 2006 European titles. Meléndez's side made unwanted history in last year's finals with three 0-0 draws but this time in Liechtenstein have won all their games, setting up a decider with England. Striker Paco has made tournament history en route to the showpiece with 14 goals since qualifying began in October.

England are in only their second final at this level, after the loss to Spain in 2007, but do have history of their own to aim at. The last time their nation won a men's European title was when a squad containing Nicky Butt, Sol Campbell, Robbie Fowler, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes triumphed at U18 level in 1993 – the year all but one of this current squad were born.

Last updated: 29/05/10 18.54CET

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