Usually, 24,000 would be considered an excellent aggregate attendance for a 15-match UEFA European Under-17 Championship final tournament. That figure was in fact the crowd just for Monday's final in Magdeburg, part of a total gate figure of around 81,000, a figure as impressive as the football that made Germany the first hosts since France in 2004 to lift the U17 trophy.
The schools programme, a long-standing tradition for German youth internationals, ensured crowds of at least 2,000 for every game and ten times that number in the final, which kicked off at 11.00. Netherlands coach Albert Stuivenberg said: "It was fantastic. None of our players had experienced such a crowd before." Germany defender Shkodran Mustafi revealed: "It is a great motivation. You don't really realise it when you are on the pitch but you do when you go up for corners and those sort of situations."
On the pitch, Germany looked certain winners from the moment they responded to conceding a tenth-minute goal in their opener against Turkey with an immediate equaliser in a 3-1 win. They overwhelmed England 4-0, beat the Netherlands 2-0 with a weakened team and ousted Italy 2-0 in the semi-finals. They fell behind early to the Netherlands but no matter; Lennart Thy equalised with his third goal of the finals and in extra time substitute Florian Trinks thrilled the crowd with a stunning free-kick winner.
What the Netherlands had, though they were not short of skill, was determination. They showed it when holding on to draw 1-1 with England and in beating Turkey 2-1 in the group stage, and then once again when it seemed Switzerland would wipe out their 2-1 semi-final lead. They were unfortunate that Germany finally found a way through.
Both the beaten semi-finalists emerged from Group A, and Switzerland and Italy proved their worth by finishing above Spain and France – winners and runners-up in 2008. Spain were going for a third straight title in their first campaign without venerable coach Juan Santisteban, but despite dominating their matches became the only team in any UEFA national-team finals to have three 0-0 draws. In contrast to last year, France were staunch in defence but like Spain found goals hard to come by.
Below the two finalists in Group B were Turkey and England, who were not short of individual talent like Jack Wilshere, Jonjo Shelvey and Jose Baxter, but were frustrated by the Netherlands and outgunned by Germany. Ravaged by injury, England then lost 1-0 to Turkey, who will join the four semi-finalists and Spain in the FIFA U-17 World Cup this autumn in Nigeria.
The lasting memory of this tournament will be the young, boisterous crowds. After the final, Stuivenberg concluded: "It is a credit to Germany the way they organised the tournament with this final and all those spectators and I think both teams gave the spectators a great game to watch."
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