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No stopping Portugal

Portugal became the third team in six seasons to follow a final defeat by winning the title, taking the trophy in Denmark with flair.

Portugal talisman Luís Figo scored in the 1989 final of the UEFA European Under-16 championship
Portugal talisman Luís Figo scored in the 1989 final of the UEFA European Under-16 championship ©AFP

It was something of a theme in the early Under-16 tournaments for the previous runners-up to go one better the next year. And Portugal became the third team in six seasons to do just that in 1989 in Denmark, winning in superb style.

Of the usual contenders, only 1988 semi-finalists West Germany did not qualify, losing 3-0 on aggregate to their fellow former champions the Soviet Union. Portugal, having only lost the 1988 final on penalties, were on top form in Group A, defeating Switzerland 2-0, Norway 3-0 and Romania 4-0 en route to the semi-finals. Hosts Denmark began with a 9-3 win against Austria, the biggest win to date in any U16 finals match and a record aggregate scoreline that would not be beaten by the time it became an U17 event in 2001. However, it was France and Yugoslavia, who drew 0-0, who were to dominate Group B. On Matchday 2 Denmark lost 2-0 to Yugoslavia and France defeated Austria 3-2. Yugoslavia then beat Austria 2-0, but missed out on goal difference as France saw off the hosts 4-0.

Holders Spain were in Group C, and defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in their first game. A 2-2 draw with Bulgaria left the group in the balance going into the final round but Spain came out on top, defeating Greece 1-0 to better the Dutch, who beat Bulgaria by the same score. East Germany, third in 1988, started Group D with a 1-0 win against Italy as the Soviet Union beat Scotland 2-1. All the other results were to be draws - 2-2 between East Germany and Scotland, with the rest 1-1. That included the decider between East Germany and the USSR, meaning that a penalty shoot-out was needed - and just as they had against Sweden the year before, the East Germans prevailed 5-4.

In the semi-finals Portugal gained revenge for their 1988 final defeat by Spain with a 2-1 win while East Germany defeated France 3-0. The French did finish third by beating Spain 3-2, but the title stayed in Iberia as Portugal beat East Germany 4-1. Nelson Lemos opened the scoring in Vejle on 16 minutes, and although Lars Kampf equalised just after the break, Luís Figo, Nelson Gomes and Miguel Simão decided the game.

In the subsequent FIFA U-16 World Championship in Scotland, East Germany fell in the last eight to the hosts, who then defeated Portugal 1-0 before losing to Saudi Arabia on penalties in the final.