The UEFA European Under-19 Championship is the successor to the FIFA junior tournament, which began in 1948 as a U18 event and was taken over by UEFA seven years later. The tournament was played in a number of different formats in the first 32 years of its existence, with England enjoying success on eight occasions while the Soviet Union triumphed in the competition four times and Bulgaria three.
In 1980, the tournament was changed to the UEFA European Under-18 Championship, reflecting one of UEFA's main priorities, which is to promote youth football and to encourage the development of young footballers. The inaugural European U16 Championship was held in 1980/82, before the competitions were changed to U17 and U19 events ahead of the 2001/02 season because of changes in player eligibility dates.
France were the most successful team in the European U18 Championship, lifting the trophy on four separate occasions, with Portugal and the Soviet Union each prevailing twice. The early years of the U19 event were dominated by Spain, winners in four of the first six editions with Italy triumphing in 2003 and France victorious two year later.
The competition has also marked the first significant successes of a significant number of future stars, with England's victorious 1993 team featuring the likes of Gary Neville, Sol Campbell and Paul Scholes, all of whom went on to win well over 50 caps for the senior team.
A significant number of other players have starred in their team's triumphs at U18 and U19 level before going on to senior glory, with the victorious French side of 1996 featuring Mikaël Silvestre, William Gallas, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet two years before the latter two were involved in the FIFA World Cup success. Italian trio Gianluigi Buffon, Francesco Totti and Andrea Pirlo, the Republic of Ireland's record goalscorer Robbie Keane and Spain's Fernando Torres, David Silva and Sergio Ramos are just a few of the players who have figured in U18 and U19 finals in recent years.
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