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Saha strikes gold for Les Bleus

Louis Saha's golden goal in the final ensured France retained the title in Iceland and became the first nation to win three U18 Championships.

France's golden goal hero Louis Saha played at the 2006 World Cup
France's golden goal hero Louis Saha played at the 2006 World Cup ©Getty Images

Having claimed the UEFA European Under-18 Championship title in 1996, France held on to it the next year to become the first nation to win the tournament three times.

Iceland were chosen as hosts for the first time, and while 1996 finalists France and Spain qualified, there were some less regular familiar names in the finals, Switzerland winning through after a 13-year absence and Israel making their U18 finals debut having been trying to qualify since 1992.

Portugal had defeated England 4-2 on aggregate to qualify, and they took that form into the finals. They began Group A by winning 2-0 against Hungary, while the hosts held Spain 1-1. Iceland then lost 1-0 to Portugal, Spain giving themselves hope of progressing by beating Hungary 2-1. However, Portugal won the all-Iberian group decider 2-0, while Iceland held onto third place with a 2-2 draw against Hungary.

The Republic of Ireland gave France a tough Group B opener but Les Blues held on to win 3-2, and Switzerland put three past Israel without reply. Israel then lost 2-0 to France, while the Republic of Ireland defeated the Swiss 1-0. Switzerland could still have salvaged their campaign had they beaten France, but David Hellebuyck scored the only goal for the holders. Ireland drew 1-1 with Israel to go into the third-place match, though they lost there 2-1 to Spain.

Ninety minutes could not split France and Portugal in the final in Reykjavik, and so the game went to golden goal extra time. Five minutes in Louis Saha found the target, and in an instant his nation were champions again.