France produced their best performances when it mattered most, scoring 12 goals in their final three games to win the UEFA European Under-19 Championship for the third time, beating Italy by a record margin in the final.
Ludovic Batelli's side lost their first match of the tournament but hit top form at the competition's business end, brushing aside the Netherlands to reach the semi-finals, where they disposed of Portugal. France saved the best til last, early goals from Jean-Kévin Augustin and Ludovic Blas added to late on by captain Lucas Tousart and Issa Diop as Italy's previously imperious defence was utterly dismantled.
Such has been Spain's dominance of the U19s – seven titles in the competition's first 14 years, including 2015 – that their elite round elimination by England came as a jolt, although it was the second time in three years La Riojita had missed the finals.
England carried that impressive form into the final tournament, scoring twice in the first nine minutes of their matchday one fixture with France. That was the first of three successive 2-1 Group B wins for Aidy Boothroyd's team, while France responded strongly to that opening setback.
Defeats of Croatia (2-0) and the Netherlands (5-1) gave them the runners-up spot, Augustin striking five of their goals – three against the Dutch and scoring a record-equalling six in the finals overall – and Kylian Mbappé the other three.
Group A opened with hosts Germany playing Italy in front of 54,689 at the VfB Arena in Stuttgart, a new U19 record. The majority went home disappointed after Federico Dimarco's late penalty earned Italy a 1-0 victory, setting an Azzurrini theme. Germany's hopes were ended by a 4-3 defeat against Portugal despite Phillipp Ochs' hat-trick, Portugal making sure of first place with a 1-1 draw against Italy that left their opponents second.
Germany secured third position in the section with a 3-0 win against Austria, setting up a play-off against the Netherlands for a place in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Three late goals made it 2-2 after 90 minutes, with both sides allowed to use a fourth substitute during extra time under a new UEFA experiment. Germany prevailed 5-4 on penalties after a 3-3 draw.
In the semi-finals, Italy – whose group stage goals had been two penalties and a free-kick – again showed their set-piece prowess. Dimarco converted another spot kick and a wonderful curling free-kick to earn a 2-1 win against England, for whom Alberto Picchi's own goal came too late.
Portugal struck first in the second knockout tie, taking a third-minute lead with Pedro Pacheco's header, before Mbappé took over. The Monaco forward set up France's tenth-minute equaliser for Blas, then scored twice from close range in the second half. For France, however, the best was still to come.
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