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2008: Lars & Sven Bender

Although Germany have long been one of Europe's powerhouses, they went into the 2008 finals without a trophy at youth level since 1992; twin brothers Lars and Sven Bender were crucial to ending that run in style.

Lars and Sven Bender with the U19 trophy
Lars and Sven Bender with the U19 trophy ©Sportsfile

Although Germany have long been one of the powerhouses of European football, they went into the 2007/08 UEFA European Under-19 Championship without a trophy at youth level since 1992. Five games and five victories later, that dry run had come to an end in considerable style, with twin brothers Lars and Sven Bender at the centre of the success.

Born in the Bavarian town of Rosenheim on 27 April 1989, the twins were the heartbeat of Germany's midfield and, while it may have been unusual for observers to see two such similar players, for the brothers it was nothing new. "We know this feeling from the [2006] European U17 Championship and from our clubs too, especially 1860 München – we've played in the same team since we joined them," Sven told UEFA.com. Lars elaborated further, saying: "We've always been in the same team. There has never been a question of us playing for a different side, although you can't predict what will happen in the future."

The pair are virtually identical, and distinguishing them is made harder as both play in central midfield and have similar styles, although the twins are keen to highlight that they do possess different talents as well. "There are only small differences between us as players, which perhaps aren't obvious to people who watch us," Lars admitted. "We do have some differences, although we fit together very well. I'm a little bit more offensive than Sven, who is more defensive – although we are quite alike. We play in the same position after all."

The twins went into the U19 finals in the Czech Republic with each having broken into the TSV 1860 München first team in 2007/08, Lars playing 28 2. Bundesliga games over the course of the season – one more than Sven. The latter was ever present in the finals, Lars missing only the first game with Spain through suspension and scoring against Bulgaria and – crucially – the first in the 3-1 final win against Italy en route to what Sven described as "an absolute dream".

Although the pair recognise that being bracketed together as twins might cause occasional problems – Sven pointing out that: "We are not judged as individuals – nobody talks about Lars Bender or Sven Bender, people only talk about 'the Benders' – such attention also has a positive element. "In a way this has made us stronger because we've learned than one of us can help the other improve and raise his game," Sven added. Both certainly raised their performance levels to the very top in the U19 finals, to the delight of Germany fans everywhere.