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Azzurrini claim Vaduz victory

Italy overcame a free-scoring Portuguese team to claim the 2002/03 UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Liechtenstein.

Azzurrini claim Vaduz victory
Azzurrini claim Vaduz victory ©UEFA.com

The 2002/03 UEFA European Under-19 Championship staked out new territory when it was announced that Liechtenstein would stage the finals. The principality had previously competed in the 16-team 1998 U16 Championship, but departed without a point or a goal.

Liechtenstein, drawn in Group A, fell to a 5-0 defeat by Portugal in the opening match, but did get on to the scoresheet in their second fixture against Norway. Sandro Maierhofer gave Liechtenstein the lead four minutes in, but by half-time Norway had scored twice, forging a 2-1 advantage they never conceded. Italy opened their campaign with a 1-0 win against Norway thanks to a last-minute Alberto Aquilani penalty, then drew 1-1 with Portugal. Norway needed to beat Portugal in their final game to advance and at the break led 2-0, but substitute Paulo Sérgio scored twice to salvage a 2-2 draw for his side. Unlike in previous years there was a semi-final round so a point was enough for Portugal to advance as runners-up behind Italy, who eliminated Lichtenstein 5-1.

Group B began with Austria beating England 2-1 and the Czech Republic scoring twice in the last three minutes to hold France 3-3. Austria became the first team into the last four after coming from behind to defeat the Czechs 4-1, while England recovered to defeat France 2-0. England now only needed a point in their final game, but slipped to a 3-0 defeat against the Czechs, who progressed behind Austria after their 1-1 against France.

The semi-finals were contrasting affairs in Vaduz. In the second Giampaolo Pazzini's goal was enough for Italy to defeat the Czech Republic 1-0, but by then everyone was catching their breath from the afternoon game which had finished Portugal 6 Austria 3. Austria led 2-0 on 28 minutes but the scores were level at the break. Portugal then went ahead only for Lukas Mössner to force extra-time. In the additional half-hour Pedro Pereira scored either side of Paulo Sérgio's fifth finals goal as Portugal prevailed 6-3. To add to the drama, Portugal goalkeeper Paulo Ribeiro had saved two penalties in normal time. There were to be no more comebacks for Portugal in the final, though, as first-half goals from Luigi Della Rocca and Pazzini gave Italy a 2-0 win, their first outright title at this level since the 1958 International Youth Tournament.