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Spain streak to victory

Spain claimed their first UEFA European Under-18 Championship title in fine style with a final victory against a promising Italy squad in Greece.

A hat-trick in the final was the catalyst for Carlos Domínguez to make more than 100 appearances for both Sevilla and Mallorca
A hat-trick in the final was the catalyst for Carlos Domínguez to make more than 100 appearances for both Sevilla and Mallorca ©AFP

In 1994 Spain, as hosts, missed out on the UEFA European Under-18 Championship final by the narrowest of margins. The following year they not only made the decider, they won it in style against a promising Italy team.

Greece were picked as hosts, having not qualified since 1984, but holders Portugal, who had not finished outside the top four in nearly a decade, fell unbeaten in the qualifying round, losing out to Turkey on goal difference. Germany, 1994 runners-up after losing on penalties to Portugal, also went out after losing 1-0 on home soil to Northern Ireland. In the end Greece were joined by Spain, Norway, Turkey, Hungary, the Netherlands, Italy and, for the first time as a separate nation, Slovakia.

Italy's squad for the finals included Francesco Totti, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon – second choice behind Morgan De Sanctis – and they began Group A in style by racing into a 3-0 half-time lead against the hosts and winning 4-1. Norway overcame Slovakia 3-1 but then lost 2-1 to Italy as Greece defeated the Slovakians 5-1. Although Italy then lost 1-0 to Slovakia they still went through, Greece finishing second after drawing 1-1 with Norway.

Group B opened with Spain defeating Hungary 2-1 and the Netherlands winning 4-1 against Turkey. Two days later Spain and the Dutch were victorious again, the Spanish putting three past Turkey and the Netherlands winning a thriller 5-3 against Hungary with three goals in the last 20 minutes. The Dutch needed only a draw to pip Spain to the final, but Miguel Ángel Angulo scored twice and, although Tommie van der Leegte pulled one back, Spain were through. Hungary also won 2-1 to end third in the pool.

The Dutch, having just missed out on the final, fell 5-0 to the hosts in the third-place match, future UEFA EURO 2004 winners Georgios Karagounis and Vassilios Lakis among the scorers. Spain also turned on the style in the final, Carlos Domínguez scoring a hat-trick and Guti also on target in a 4-1 win that clinched their first U18 title, Totti managing a late consolation while Buffon also came off the bench and kept a clean sheet for the final 27 minutes.