The 2012 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship was an advert of the ever-widening base of the competition. For much of its 11-year history it was often a case of, to misquote ex-England striker Gary Lineker, eight teams chasing a ball for 15 games before Germany won. Yet this time, for the first time, Germany failed even to reach the finals, which featured four newcomers and ended with a new name on the trophy: Sweden.
It was Calle Barrling's side who had ended the holders' campaign in a second qualifying round that also accounted for 2011 runners-up Norway and 2010 winners France. Fitting, then, that they should be there in the end. Their opponents in the Antalya final was a Spain team they had drawn 0-0 with six days earlier in the group stage, sparring between heavyweight boxers according to Barrling. As Sweden snapped into tackles early on in the showpiece, it was quickly apparent that this was the real deal.
Sweden took the initiative but Spain, playing deep, rolled with the punches and began to land the bigger shots themselves; by the second half they were well on top. Jessica Höglander brilliantly turned Virginia Torrecilla's header around the upright, but she was helpless when Alexia Putellas fired a free-kick against the woodwork. Their ascendancy continued into extra time and then, on 108 minutes, came an almighty sucker punch.
Elin Rubensson broke down the left and delivered a low cross that Dolores Gallardo could only spill into the path of the onrushing Malin Diaz, who fired into the empty net. There was no way back for Spain as Barrling was left hailing the realisation of a change in his coaching philosophy born in their 2009 final defeat by England, "blending technique and defence".
Indeed, defences dominated in a tournament played in temperatures that seldom dipped below 25C; the tally of 26 goals in 15 games was, by a distance, a record low. The die was cast on the opening day, when four matches brought five goals and wins for Denmark, Spain and eye-catchingly Sweden, 1-0 victors over 2009 nemeses England.
The triumphant trio all made it two wins from two, sealing progress with a game to spare, and there was also a maiden finals victory for Portugal over Romania. Having held another of the sides making their finals debut, hosts Turkey, to a goalless draw in their first outing, it would prove enough to take them through. As a testament to the strength of the competition, all four newcomers, Serbia included, gained at least a point.
Portugal's memorable campaign ended in heart-breaking style in the last four as substitute Raquel Pinel struck three minutes from time to earn Iberian rivals Spain a 1-0 win. The other semi was also a derby, as Rubensson took her tournament-leading total to five, and 13 for the campaign, with a first-half double in a 3-1 victory over Denmark. She had to settle for an assist in the final for Diaz, who owes her Hispanic name to a Chilean parent; not that she minded. Sweden had finally broken their duck.
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