Italy 2-1 Spain
(Vialli 50, Giannini 76; Caldere 36)
Spain 2-1 Italy
(Cravero 36og, Roberto 76; Francini 38)
(agg: 3-3, Spain win 3-0 on penalties)
Just four months after Spain had lost to Belgium on penalties in the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup, their Under-21 side showed the seniors how it should be done by overcoming Italy in a shoot-out to claim the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The final ended 3-3 after extra-time in the second leg, meaning the destination of the trophy would have to be decided on spot-kicks for the first time in the tournament's ten-year history. Spain came out on top, but it was the legacy of Azeglio Vicini's Azzurrini squad that would have a greater impact at the 1990 World Cup.
Roberto Mancini, Giuseppe Giannini, Roberto Donadoni, Walter Zenga and Gianluca Vialli were the cream of an exciting young crop of Italian players during the mid-1980s. Great things were expected of them and they duly strolled through the group stage, scoring 15 goals in just four matches to set up a last-eight tie with Sweden, who had topped Group 2 ahead of Germany. Vicini's side edged through thanks to a goal from Vialli, and the UC Sampdoria forward was again on target in both legs of the semi-finals against England as Italy triumphed 3-1 on aggregate.
Spain reached the knockout stages after comfortably winning their section, despite scoring only four times. But the 1984 European U21 Championship finalists cut loose against France in the quarter-finals, claiming 3-1 victories home and away to set up a last-four encounter with Hungary. Spain lost the first leg 3-1, but came back in thrilling style, winning 4-1 to earn a final place against Italy.
The final first leg was six months later and it was Italy who seized the initiative in Rome. Ramón Caldere opened the scoring on 36 minutes, but the home team fought back with goals from Giannini and Vialli, who had spent the summer with the senior side in Mexico. Roberto Cravero's first-half own goal swung the tie back in Spain's favour in the return in Barcelona and although Giovanni Francini equalised almost immediately, Roberto's 76th-minute strike took the final to extra time and ultimately penalties, where Spain ran out 3-0 winners. Four years later Vicini was coach of the full Italy side. He kept the nucleus of his Under-21 team together and they went on to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990.
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