While England had dominated the former International Youth Tournament, neighbours Scotland lost all six of their semi-finals. But in the second UEFA European Under-18 Championship, the Scots began by eliminating their arch-rivals and ended by lifting their first continental trophy at any level.
Finland were selected as hosts for the 16-team finals, and holders West Germany won the only three-team qualifying group with a perfect record against France and Luxembourg. In other notable preliminaries, the Netherlands and Yugoslavia defeated Wales and Turkey respectively on penalties, the Republic of Ireland overturned a first-leg deficit to beat Northern Ireland and Scotland eliminated England 3-2 overall.
Hosts Finland launched the tournament with 2-1 loss to Czechoslovakia. Also in Group C, Portugal overcame Hungary by the same score and then drew 1-1 with Czechoslovakia while Finland bounced back 3-2 against Hungary. However, the hosts then finished 1-1 against Portugal, allowing Czechoslovakia to claim the sole semi-final berth with a 2-0 win against the Hungarians.
West Germany were drawn in Group A and they began their defence by beating Ireland 1-0. But the Soviet Union, surprise non-qualifiers in 1981, were in determined mood, defeating Austria 4-1 and Ireland 2-0. That gave them a two-point lead as Austria gained a 4-1 win against West Germany, who then lost 1-0 to the USSR to surrender their title. Austria finished second after overcoming Ireland 4-2.
Poland, beaten finalists the year before, won 1-0 against both Belgium and Spain. The Spanish lost 2-1 to Bulgaria, who then fell 1-0 to Belgium. That meant Belgium's closing 3-1 win against Spain gave them hope, but Poland got the point they needed in a goalless game with Bulgaria.
Scotland, meanwhile, were showing fine form in Group D, beating Albania 3-0 and Turkey 2-0. Since the Netherlands, containing the nucleus of their 1988 senior European champions, could only defeat those teams 3-1, Scotland needed only to draw with the Dutch in their decider and did so as Marco van Basten's opener was cancelled out late on by Gary McGinnis. It was also 1-1 between Turkey and Albania in what was to prove the latter's only U18 finals.
The Scots continued their winning ways in the semi-finals, triumphing 2-0 against Poland. Czechoslovakia scored the only goal versus the Soviet Union, who subsequently beat Poland 3-1 for third place. In the final Scotland defeated Czechoslovakia by the same scoreline, Gary Mackay, Pat Nevin and John Phillibe on target for a team coached by future senior team managers Andy Roxburgh and Walter Smith.
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