Having not conceded a goal on their way to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship final, the Netherlands turned on the style to defeat Germany 5-2 and clinch a fascinating tournament.
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Before the 2011 UEFA European Under-17 Championship final in Serbia, talk had focused on the Netherlands' feat of not conceding a goal. By half-time in the Novi Sad decider against Germany each side had struck twice and when the Netherlands completed a 5-2 win on Sunday, it was the highest-scoring UEFA men's youth final on record.
Playmaker Tonny Trindade de Vilhena twice had to equalise in the first 40 minutes, cancelling out goals by Samed Yesil and Okan Aydin. After the break, though, Memphis Depay's stunning solo effort edged the Netherlands in front before Terence Kongolo – a brilliant centre-back – turned in a corner and Kyle Ebecilio added another to seal his nation's first U17 title.
Albert Stuivenberg, in his fourth final tournament in five seasons as Netherlands coach, set up a team that were hard to beat without being defensive. Having only conceded four in 11 games over the season prior to the finals, they topped their section by beating Germany 2-0 and debutants Romania 1-0, allowing them to rest seven players in drawing 0-0 with the Czech Republic.
Dynamic Arsenal FC midfielder Ebecilio struck the goal that saw off holders England in the last four, and was part of a strong spine that included Feyenoord centre-backs Kongolo and Karim Rekik, as well as fellow club-mates Trindade de Vilhena and Anass Achahbar, the lone striker who proved adept at setting up goals. That meant Stuivenberg could overturn the loss he suffered to Germany in the 2009 final.
Steffen Freund's team had won a perfect six qualifiers. However, after their opening loss to the Netherlands, they stared elimination in the face when one down to the Czech Republic, having had two penalties saved by the superb Lukáš Zima. However, Yesil equalised in the last minute and he also scored to beat Romania 1-0.
For the semi-final against Denmark, Yesil was among four players suspended with the creative Levent Aycicek out through injury and substitute goalkeeper Cedric Wilmes reclassified as an outfield player. Germany, however, won 2-0 and in the final Yesil registered in his eighth straight game to end as joint finals top scorer. Ebecilio, Trindade de Vilhena and England's Hallam Hope also scored three, though Yesil was top of the charts including qualifying with 11 goals.
The highest crowd of the tournament, 6,000 in Novi Sad, saw the hosts lose 3-2 to Denmark, who in fact were the team of the group stage under young coach Thomas Frank with some brilliant attacking football inspired by Viktor Fischer and Kenneth Zohore. In the semi-final against Germany luck was not on their side, though, just as it proved for England – brilliant in ousting Serbia 3-0 but dethroned deservedly by the Netherlands.
Both finalists, and indeed all eight contenders, had benfited from the support of a local school as part of the Football Association of Serbia (FSS)'s Stronger Together anti-racism campaign, with the 'German' and 'Dutch' fans especially vocal. "I am very grateful to them," Trindade de Vilhena told UEFA.com. "It was fantastic to have so many supporters celebrating with us, a wonderful experience."