From the brink of being UEFA European Under-17 Championship group stage casualties, Germany summoned the strength to progress, shrug off a host of suspensions in the semi-final and come within touching distance of the title.
Beaten 2-0 by the Netherlands in their opening Group B encounter, few would have predicted Steffen Freund's team would have been facing the Dutch once more in Sunday's final when they trailed the Czech Republic 1-0 on Matchday 2. Defeat would have spelt elimination but, even after failing to convert two penalties, Germany secured an invaluable point before battling through to the last four via a 1-0 victory against Romania.
Even four suspensions, incluidng one for the scorer of both their goals Samed Yesil, and one tournament-ending injury to playmaker Levent Aycicek, did not stop them then. Denmark – perfect in Group A – were brushed aside 2-0 to ensure a place in the showpiece. Though it proved a step too far for Freund's charges as they lost 5-2 to the Netherlands having twice led in the first half, goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos told UEFA.com that such a revival was achievement enough in itself.
"Our coach gave congratulations to the team for an extraordinary tournament," he said. "Having almost been out we fought back and reached the final. We can be very proud to have played here and it will be a great experience for our career. We knew from our previous matches that we can come back from anything and that gives us a lot of self-confidence."
Though the Netherlands can now boast to be the cream of the crop in Europe, both sides will have a chance to make their mark on the global stage when they go to Mexico for the FIFA U-17 World Cup next month. For Vlachodimos and his team-mates, self-belief remains firmly intact.
"We have been against the best players in Europe," added the VfB Stuttgart keeper. "To see what level they play at has been a great experience for us. If we continue to believe in ourselves and keep playing as compactly as is required, we can do well in Mexico."
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