The Soviet Union defeated a fine Portugal side to claim the 1988 UEFA European Under-18 Championship, although the Iberian side were to succeed on another prestigious stage.
With only eight teams to qualify, again the preliminaries produced some notable casualties. While East Germany became the first holders since 1983 to reach the finals, the other semi-finalists from the previous tournament – Italy, West Germany and Scotland – missed out, as did world U20 champions Yugoslavia and all the other previous winners, not only West Germany and Scotland, but France and Hungary. Czechoslovakia, twice runners-up, were selected as hosts for the knockout finals having had the second best qualifying record.
Spain bettered that with six preliminary wins and kept that up in the quarter-finals as they defeated Czechoslovakia 1-0, the second time running that the hosts had fallen on the opening day. East Germany's defence continued with a 2-0 win against Denmark, the Soviet Union beat Norway 4-2 and Portugal's 'golden generation' of Paulo Sousa, Fernando Couto and co made their mark, overcoming the Netherlands, including Frank De Boer and Bryan Roy, 3-0.
There was consolation for the hosts two days later as they clinched a 1989 FIFA U-20 World Cup place with a 1-0 triumph against the Dutch as Norway defeated Denmark 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Portugal, who were to make their mark in the global event, continued their run in the semi-finals, winning 2-0 against Spain. Meanwhile, East Germany held on for 65 minutes against the USSR before the holders succumbed to an Oleg Salenko double and Yuri Nikiforov strike.
East Germany overcame Spain 2-0 in the third-place match in Frydek Mistek, followed by the final. The score was 1-1 after 90 minutes, but the USSR prevailed against Portugal as Nikoforov and Salenko managed extra-time goals.
Portugal got their consolation at the World Cup in Saudi Arabia the following March. After defeating Colombia and Brazil 1-0, they faced a Nigerian team they had beaten in the group stage, and thanks to goals from Abel Silva and Couto were crowned world champions.
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