In 1980 UEFA set up new youth championships for Under-16 and U18 national teams as part of their commitment to developing the game in Europe. For U18s the competition replaced the International Youth Tournament which had begun in 1948, and was won for the last time in 1980 by England, who also took the inaugural title and a record eight overall. However it was the reigning senior continental champions, West Germany, who took the first UEFA European U18 Championship trophy on home soil having never won its predecessor.
Thirty-two countries entered the competition, West Germany qualifying automatically for the 16-team finals. In the very first match Norway won 1-0 in Denmark, but the Danes prevailed 3-2 on aggregate. Four-time International Youth Tournament winners the Soviet Union lost to Czechoslovakia on penalties.
It was the hosts who lit up the opening day of the finals with a 5-0 win against Group A rivals Wales. Belgium also defeated Greece, but both those teams then lost to West Germany and Wales. With only one team going through the hosts moved into the semi-finals.
In Group B Poland followed a 1-1 draw with Sweden by beating both Romania and Czechoslovakia 3-1. That was enough to top the pool as Sweden then produced further 1-1 results against their group rivals, finishing second ahead of Romania who had defeated Czechoslovakia 3-2 in their opener.
Group C began with two draws – Italy scoreless against France and Bulgaria finishing 2-2 versus Denmark. France were to prevail, though, 2-1 against Denmark and 3-0 versus Bulgaria as Italy beat the Bulgarians 1-0 but lost 2-1 to Denmark.
England put their reputation as U18 masters on the line in Group D but began by losing 2-1 to Spain while Scotland claimed the only goal against Austria. The Scots then repeated the trick against their English rivals, but Spain's 3-0 win against Austria left them top on goal difference and a 1-1 draw against Scotland took them through, England gaining some consolation with a 7-0 win against Austria.
Both semi-finals went to penalties. In a prelude to the following year's FIFA World Cup, West Germany beat France 4-3 on spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw. The other semi-final was scoreless and the shoot-out went into sudden-death before Poland prevailed 6-5 against Spain.
The third-place match ended in similar fashion, France drawing 1-1 against Spain and then winning 2-0 on penalties. However, in front of a crowd of 56,000 in Dusseldorf, West Germany won the final in 90 minutes, Holger Anthes scoring the goal that beat Poland. That autumn the West Germans proved it was no fluke by winning October's FIFA U-20 World Cup in Australia, defeating Qatar 4-0 in the final. Romania beat England for third place.
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