Germany won the UEFA European Under-21 Championship title for the first time two years ago in Sweden with a 4-0 final win against England bringing a memorable tournament to a fittingly eye-catching close.
Germany's 2009 finals campaign had been built on the strength of their defence with the brilliance of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and centre-backs Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Höwedes helping to restrict their opponents to a single goal all tournament.
In the final, though, it was the skills of midfielder Mesut Özil that proved England's undoing. The 20-year-old scored once and set up two more as Germany completed a hat-trick of age-group titles by adding the U21 championship to the U19 and U17 crowns they had won during the previous 11 months.
If Germany went home with the trophy, there was also reason for Sweden to celebrate. The hosts were knocked out in the semi-finals, but thrilled a nation with a series of terrific performances. Marcus Berg proved himself one of a number of stars in the making with a final tournament record seven goals, scoring the first three in a 5-1 rout of Belarus in his side's opening Group A game.
In the day's other match Serbia drew 0-0 with Italy who then took command of the section by beating the hosts 2-1 three days later. A goalless draw between Belarus and Serbia meant Sweden and Italy only needed to draw their final matches to advance and in the event both won. Italy defeated Belarus 2-1 to claim top spot and Berg scored twice as Sweden beat Serbia 3-1.
Germany and England both advanced from Group B. Stuart Pearce's side overcame competition debutants Finland 2-1 in their opener despite having Michael Mancienne sent off, then showed their title credentials by beating Spain 2-0 to tie up top spot. Germany had kicked off with a scoreless stalemate against Spain and hardly looked like eventual champions as Finland pressed them hard before succumbing 2-0.
That left Horst Hrubesch's side needing a point against England to advance and they took command in Halmstad thanks to Gonzalo Castro's fifth-minute strike. England made ten changes to the team that had beaten Spain, but still claimed a draw thanks to Jack Rodwell's 30th-minute header. Spain recovered to defeat Finland, but both sides bowed out.
For all their promise, Sweden looked down and out in the first of the semi-finals as England took advantage of their vulnerability at set pieces to streak into a 3-0 first-half lead through Martin Cranie, Nedum Onuoha and Mattias Bjärsmyr's own goal. Sweden, however, fought back and two more goals from Berg either side of an Ola Toivonen free-kick forced extra time.
Fraizer Campell's dismissal further tipped the balance Sweden's way, but they were unable to make the man advantage count. England had lost to the Netherlands on penalties at this stage in 2007, but they held their nerve this time and won through to their first final since 1984 when Guillermo Molins hit the post with his spot kick.
England were joined in the final by Germany who had Andreas Beck's long-range goal on 47 minutes and the heroics of Neuer to thank in a 1-0 win against Italy in their semi-final. The Azzurrini dominated the first half and Neuer twice saved Marco Motta headers, but once again the German defence held firm.
In the Malmo final, Horst Hrubesch's side showed they could attack a bit too. Castro put Germany ahead on 23 minutes before Özil's swerving 35-metre free-kick eluded stand-in England goalkeeper Scott Loach three minutes after the interval. A late brace from Sandro Wagner put a sheen on an impressive performance as Germany collected the European title that had surprisingly eluded them for so long.
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