The 2013/14 UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship may have ushered in the start of a new era, but a familiar name was etched onto the trophy after two weeks of intelligent and engaging football in England.
Having failed to qualify for the last Nyon finals in June, Germany wasted little time in making their mark on the expanded eight-team tournament, eventually prevailing 4-2 against Scotland thanks in part to a Jasmin Sehan hat-trick. Spain, meanwhile, produced a familiar eye-catching brand of football in their 2-0 defeat of France. In Group A, the hosts succumbed to a late Italy goal in front of a record crowd, before debutants Austria underlined their credentials at this level by holding Portugal.
Germany boss Anouschka Bernhard would have been unhappy to see her side concede two goals on matchday one, but the champions responded in style by overpowering France 4-0 to book a semi-final berth, ending Les Bleuettes' ambitions in the process. Italy joined them in the last four after consigning Portugal to a 2-0 reverse, before England came from behind to edge Austria 2-1. In the second evening kick-off, Scotland were somewhat unfortunate not to have more than a goalless draw to show for their efforts against Spain.
Jorge Vilda's side rediscovered their shooting boots on matchday three, sending four unanswered goals past Germany. That result, secured with Andrea Sánchez and Aitana Bonmati doubles, meant Spain progressed as section winners. Scotland's Pauline Hamill was left to reflect fondly on a "brilliant education", meanwhile, after signing off with defeat by France. Austria also bowed out with their pride intact, overcoming Group A winners Italy to finish two points behind the hosts, who flexed their muscles in a 6-1 rout of Portugal to book a semi-final with Spain.
Italy had vowed not to betray their attacking principles, but were overawed in the knockout stage by Germany during a breathless first 40 minutes in which Ricarda Walkling struck the decisive goal. Bernhard's side would discover their final opponents when Spain outclassed England 3-0 with a combination of metronomic build-up and potent finishing. Weighing in with two goals, Sánchez moved level with Sehan at the top of the scoring charts.
Just as they had on matchday one, the Azzurrini edged England to clinch third place and a 2014 FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup berth, this time prevailing on penalties. As for the main event, few could argue with Bernhard's assessment that the "best two teams were in the final" as Spain and Germany, who had won five of the previous six editions between them, contested the Chesterfield showpiece.
Leading courtesy of Patricia Guijarro's early opener, Vilda was four minutes away from becoming the first coach to land three women's Under-17 titles when Isabella Hartig levelled to force a shoot-out. The same player then kept her composure for a second time to convert the winning penalty after goalkeeper Vivien Brandt had denied Nahikari García and Mireya García Boa. "We are so proud of what the girls have done these last two weeks," concluded Bernhard after recapturing the crown she won in 2012.
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