Shabir Isoufi helped the Netherlands through to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship final – and now he is eyeing a place in history.
Isoufi's cool finish put the Netherlands on their way to a 2-1 semi-final win against Switzerland in Grimma on Friday, and they will now take on hosts Germany at the Stadion Magdeburg on Monday morning. Only once before have the Netherlands reached a UEFA youth final, the 2005 U17 decider when they lost to Turkey, and this time Isoufi is looking for a different outcome.
"Of course I am very happy," the Feyenoord winger told uefa.com. "It is only the second time that the Netherlands have reached the Under-17 final, now the opportunity is there to become the first champions. I am very happy to be in the final."
The Netherlands' five-goal top scorer in qualifying, Isoufi drew a blank in the group stage, and the moment he broke his finals duck he led his team-mates in a merry jig. "At that moment I didn't know what I had to do, a million thoughts were running through my mind," Isoufi said. "I thought I had to do a dance, so I did a dance."
Although Luc Castaignos doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time, Switzerland overran the Netherlands after the break and for 27 minutes Isoufi and his team-mates clung on desperately to a one-goal advantage. But the Netherlands' 1-1 draw against England and 2-1 defeat of Turkey in the group stage had proved the Jong Oranje could hold out against physically stronger opposition. "I got some experience during the tournament," Isoufi said. "Because the first mach against England was also tough, and also against Turkey by the end there were also nervous minutes, so I have got used to it."
In fact, Isoufi admits that he did not expect the Netherlands would have to be a team that fought rather than passed their way to results, but they have made the final and on Monday will play in front of a competition-record 23,000 sell-out crowd. "It is a great experience, it has never happened before," he said. "It could be a little bit emotional but we'll see on Monday."
Germany defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in their final group game in Jena on Tuesday, but Isoufi and Co had the bulk of the chances against the hosts and the winger believes they can reverse the previous result. "This time there will be another winner," Isoufi said. "Last time we put on a great performance, but didn't take our chances. I'm sure Monday is going to be different and we'll win the cup."
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