France pip Spain in the rain

It may have seemed business as usual with France winning their fourth title – and Spain reaching a third final in a row – but the decider in Senec was more than a little out of the ordinary.

France celebrate
©Sportsfile

It may have seemed business as usual with France winning their fourth UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship – and Spain reaching a third final in a row – but the decider in Senec was more than a little out of the ordinary.

The game began in sunshine but when Grace Geyoro gave France the lead, the predicted heavy rain had started. By half-time it was a thunderous downpour and play was suspended. For two hours attempts were made to clear the pitch and tentative arrangements were made to resume the following day. But finally the pitch was declared fit, with rain still falling, and the game began again.

Not long afterwards France goalkeeper Mylène Chavas saved Nahikari García's penalty and, more than a little assisted by the wet pitch, Marie-Antoinette Katoto made it 2-0 with her sixth goal in Slovakia, more than anyone else. Lucía García pulled one back, finishing off a shot from Nahikari, who so nearly equalised at the death only to kick water as she went for the ball.

It was actually the second weather-disrupted match of a final tournament played out largely in warm sunshine, as the game between Norway and Slovakia was abandoned early in the second half at 0-0 with the pitch waterlogged. Since France's simultaneous 2-1 defeat of the Netherlands ensured both teams would qualify from Group A, the result of the other game was confirmed as goalless, giving hosts Slovakia their first point in a UEFA women's final tournament.

Debutants Slovakia had lost 6-0 to the Netherlands and France, who had begun with a 1-0 defeat by Norway. But a subsequent 1-0 loss to the Netherlands proved Norway's undoing.

Spain dominated Group B, who beat Germany 1-0, Austria (making a WU19 finals debut) 4-0 and Switzerland 5-0. By then Switzerland were already also through having defeated Austria 4-0 and Germany 4-2. Germany did defeat Austria 3-1 for third place but they are now five tournaments without a title.

With 11 goals, the semi-finals were the highest-scoring ever. France trailed Switzerland at half-time but a double substitution changed the game, Clara Mateo coming on to score twice and set up another in a nine-minute spell for a 3-1 win. Spain overcame the Netherlands 4-3 in a high-quality encounter with several long-range goals.

However, for the third year running Spain lost in the decider, having also reached the last three Women's U17 finals with only a 2015 victory among them. Nuria Garrote, Nahikari and Andrea Sánchez were part of the last three WU19 squads and overall have now played in the four UEFA youth competitions, a men's or women's record. Nahikari's 22 UEFA youth finals appearances and Sánchez's 40 overall including qualifying were also new bests.