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Russian determination wins out

Russia showed determination against some very skilful opponents to win the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Luxembourg.

Russian determination wins out
Russian determination wins out ©UEFA.com

Having never qualified for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals before they took their place in Luxembourg this May, Russia's well-organised team secured their first post-Soviet men's national team title.

Hosts Luxembourg were in their debut UEFA final tournament but none of the eight 2005 contenders, including holders Turkey, qualified. Luxembourg were given a tough Group A opener against Spain, and in front of a venue record 3,550 fans in Hesperange the hosts were blown away 7-1, with 15-year-old substitute Bojan Krkić striking a hat-trick. Meanwhile Russia defeated skilful Hungary 1-0 thanks to towering defender Sergey Morozov's late header. Russia then lost 3-0 to Spain but recovered to defeat improving Luxembourg 2-0, a score that took them through as Hungary had followed a 4-0 win against the hosts with a 2-0 Spanish reverse.

Germany, who had the best results in qualifying, started Group B with a 4-0 win against Belgium as the Czech Republic beat Serbia and Montenegro 2-1 thanks to a half-time reshuffle and two Tomáš Necid goals. The Czechs then battled hard to hold Germany 0-0, and although Darko Karadžić's last-gasp equaliser against Belgium gave Serbia and Montenegro a brief reprieve, they had no answer to a first-half Manuel Fischer hat-trick in a 4-0 loss against Germany. A 3-1 win against Belgium left the Czechs second, Necid again scoring twice to join Bojan and Fischer on four.

However, Necid was also booked for the second time and missed the semi-final against Spain. Bojan was finally given a start, but a stunner from Necid's replacement Tomáš Pekhart gave the Czechs a 31st-minute lead. Spain lost Roberto García to a red card and Jan Vošahlík's chip secured the Czechs a 2-0 win just before the hour. Form was upset again when Germany lost to Russia with a late goal from previously off-form substitute Aleksandr Prudnikov. Spain beat Germany for third place on penalties after Bojan and Fischer had each come off the bench to score.

The final at Luxembourg's national Josy Barthel stadium only sparked into life when Prudnikov struck early in the second half. Pekhart equalised deep into injury time, and although Aleksandr Marenich made it 2-1 to Russia in extra time, Necid - a substitute due to illness - swiftly headed his fifth goal of the tournament, equalling Bojan and Fischer, whose tally including qualifying was a record 13. So to spot-kicks, and impressive Russia goalkeeper Evgeni Pomazan made the vital save from Petr Wojnar and substitute Evgeni Korotaev converted the winner. Captain Vadim Gagloev declared: "It is such an unbelievable feeling, it's fantastic."