The final

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The final

The final

Potent France unlock the 'best defence'

The voices of the young singers who provided live pre-match entertainment at Lazur Stadium in Burgas were mature beyond their years, providing an accurate parallel with the players who were to offer 14,680 spectators 80 minutes of exhilarating entertainment which, in turn, endorsed the pre-game theory that the final involved the two best teams of the tournament.


The coaches at the pre-final media activity

The contest had been billed as an encounter between two footballing cultures. Indeed, Germany captain Felix Passlack had gone so far as to describe it as "the best attack against the best defence". France had certainly been more prolific than any other team, while Germany had not conceded a goal during the 400 minutes that had ushered them into the final.

Contrasts were highlighted by the warm-up. France honed their first touch and short passing prior to acceleration drills in the far corner. Germany's routine was about stretching, physical exercises without the ball and, finally, full use of their in-depth coaching staff with specific work-outs for each department of the team – one coach rehearsing each group in the skills they would require during the game. The other contrast was that while Jean-Claude Giuntini named an unchanged side, Christian Wück, adhering to his policy of sharing workloads, made five changes to the lineup which had started the semi-final against Russia.

Within 27 seconds of the Polish referee signalling for the ball to roll, Passlack hit a low drive which tested Luca Zidane in the France goal. It was the prelude to an evening of hectic activity for the two keepers, Zidane assiduously participating in build-ups from the back and Constantin Frommann a serial killer of one-against-one situations that seemed destined to produce French goals. Both also had crucial roles to play in covering behind high defensive lines, with Zidane patrolling some 35 metres and Frommann, a Neuer lookalike and play-alike, confidently casing an area 40 or 45 metres in depth.

In front of them, the team structures provided mirror images. Giuntini's 4-2-3-1 formation featured one novelty: the pace and skills of Jeff Reine Adélaïde were deployed on the left – he had played on the right in the semi-final – with the add-on value of stifling the exuberance of Germany right-back Jonas Busam. The France winger was fast to drop back to create a compact 4-4-2 defensive block and, when breaking forward, the right-footer's instinct was to cut inside. One such run led to a touch-off and a forward sprint which was quickly read by the ubiquitous Timothé Cognat, the skipper's delightful lofted pass giving Reine Adélaïde a clear run through the middle, aborted by the outstanding Frommann.

Timothé Cognat speaks to

It was one of many chances which went unexploited during 20 minutes of French domination. Their pace and technique allowed them to sneak in behind the Germany full-backs, only for most of their finishing to disappear into the evening sky. Germany, using different weapons, edged their way back into the game. Whereas the French were using solo skills in the wide areas to create danger, Wück's side relied on teamwork, hard running and traditional fighting qualities. Crucial battles were swaying to and fro in central midfield, with Gökhan Gül, Vitaly Janelt and the more offensive Niklas Schmidt pitting power against the lithe skills of Cognat, Jean-Victor Makengo and the industrious linking play of Bilal Boutobba, operating deeper than in previous games.

While France insisted on high-tempo combination approach work, Germany depended on fast transitions – few-touch counters aimed at catching the attack-minded, risk-taking French out of position. Attempts to feed long passes over the top and into the spaces behind the high defensive line were thwarted by the sheer pace and power of Dayot Upamecano and Mamadou Doucoure, the central pillars of the France back four.


Top scorer: Odsonne Edouard celebrates

And then, on the stroke of half-time, Odsonne Edouard's predatory instincts gave France the edge. The impressive box-to-box work by right-back Alec Georgen earned him space to square the ball into the heart of the Germany box, where Boutobba distracted all and sundry by missing his shot, leaving Edouard alone at the back post to side-foot into the net off the despairing Frommann. The teams headed for the dressing rooms barely seconds after France had drawn first blood.

Any thoughts that the final might be a 'game of two halves' were dispelled within minutes of the restart. An underhit back pass from the right by Joel Abu Hanna gave winger Nanitamo Ikone a free run at goal, only for Frommann, yet again, to read his intentions and pounce on the ball as the France No11 attempted to round him. A similar situation allowed France to go two ahead seven minutes into the second period. Frommann worked further miracles in dealing with a one-against-one situation, but, this time, a series of rebounds left the ball with Edouard on the edge of the box. Whereas none of his team-mates could defeat the Germany keeper, his low drive went unerringly into the far corner of the net.

There was barely time to utter the words 'game over' when Germany demonstrated that it was not. And, after their attempts to penetrate during open play had proved fruitless, it was a dead-ball situation which threw them a lifeline. A diagonal free-kick yielded a header that Zidane could only parry upwards, allowing left-back Erdinc Karakas to nod the ball into the net micro-seconds before the keeper could connect with his second leap.

The goal was sandwiched between two German substitutions which allowed Wück to give his team greater attacking potential, while Giuntini, having replaced the tiring Reine Adélaïde, had a contretemps when captain Cognat injured himself in tackle which resulted in a yellow card. France remained loyal to their fluent passing game and, at the back, continued to use pace and strength to undermine German attacking based on direct forward passing into space. With ten minutes to play, it was a through pass at the other end which decided the contest, Boutobba's delivery allowing Edouard to run clear, clip the ball past Frommann and become the first player to complete a hat-trick in a U17 final.


France delight in their second U17 title

Edouard, leaving the field to a standing ovation as the game went into added time, allowed his replacement to have the last word. Issa Samba immediately produced an electric run on the right and his cutback was turned into his own net by Gül. To their credit, it was only at this moment that the Germany players sank to the ground and raised the white flag.

At the final whistle, Giuntini was embraced by his coaching staff – and, in gentlemanly fashion, by Wück – as his players found enough residual energy to complete a high-speed lap of honour and revel in the applause from fans who enjoyed a final that had resembled a Formula One race, rich in speed and whirlpools of action in all areas. The French climbed into the main stand to receive medals and the trophy from their compatriot, UEFA President Michel Platini, as a reward for a performance in which their compendium of individual skills proved too much for German teamwork and fighting spirit.