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France enjoy home comforts

France ensured the hosts won the European U17 Championship for the second successive year by dramatically defeating Spain in the 2003/04 final.

France enjoy home comforts
France enjoy home comforts ©UEFA.com

France ensured the UEFA European Under-17 Championship was won by the hosts of the final tournament for the second year in succession by dramatically defeating Spain in the final of the 2003/04 competition in Chateauroux.

Philippe Bergeroo's side improved steadily throughtout the tournament in the Loire region of the country. They were initially frustrated by first-time qualifiers Northern Ireland on Matchday 1, before scoring three times in the final seven minutes to run out 3-0 winners. The other Group A game, between Spain and Turkey, finished 1-0 in favour of the Spanish, while in Group B England also scored twice late on to defeat Ukraine 2-0 and Austria and holders Portugal shared a goalless draw.

England booked their place in the semi-finals two days later as two goals from Shane Paul helped overturn an early deficit and earn John Peacock's side a 3-1 victory that left Portuguese hopes hanging by a thread. A Daniel Gramann double, meanwhile, left Ukraine still searching for their first point after a 2-1 defeat against Austria. Back in Group A, France maintained their 100 per cent record at the expense of Spain thanks to a 1-0 win, while Ergin Keles got two of Turkey's five goals against Northern Ireland.

Spain nevertheless ensured a place in the final four with a 4-1 success against Northern Ireland achieved largely due to Pedraza's hat-trick, but it was not enough to overhaul France in the standings, second-half goals from Hatem Ben Arfa and Jérémy Menez securing victory against Turkey. England confirmed first place in Group B with a 1-0 win against Austria, who lost out to Portugal for the runners-up berth thanks to a crushing 4-0 victory against Ukraine, captain Bruno Gama leading the way with two goals.

The holders' luck ran out in the semi-finals, however, Samir Nasri, Menez and Ben Arfa all finding the net in the second period to overturn Bruno Moreira's first-half goal and take the French into the final. The second semi-final came to an exciting conclusion, England's Kyel Reid canceling out Marcos García's opener for Spain only for Cesc Fabregas to settle the contest by nervelessly converting a penalty in the final minute of normal time.

Although their title hopes had been ended, England and Portugal met in the third-placed play-off with the prize of a place in the 2005 UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup on offer for the winners. In a gripping encounter, João Silva and James Walker each scored twice as the defences struggled to contain their opposing attacks, but ultimately there was more penalty misery for England as they lost out 3-2 in the shoot-out following a 4-4 draw.

Two hours later, France made the perfect start to the final in front of more than 14,000 home supporters, Kévin Constant opening the scoring inside the opening seconds. Gerard Piqué headed Spain level midway through the second half, however, but just as the match looked to be drifting towards extra time, Nasri drilled in a low long-range shot to spark jubilant scenes among the crowd.