Spain winger Gerard Deulofeu won his second successive UEFA European Under-19 Championship title in a tournament where the FC Barcelona player went from strength to strength.
Article top media content
It is a rare thing for a championship-winning team to be dependent on just one player as the sole source of their success and the same is true of Spain's triumphant Under-19 crop of 2012. In winger Gerard Deulofeu, however, La Rojita had a focal point through which most of their creativity in the tournament flowed.
In Estonia, the FC Barcelona attacker was fitter, stronger, quicker and more clinical in front of goal than he was in the previous year's U19 finals, signalling a natural progression that promises big things for the player, his club and an international set-up that continues to make the most of the immense talent at its disposal.
There were moments at the 11th UEFA European Under-19 Championship when the Barça youth-team product seemed determined to dismantle opposing defences by himself, his unwavering focus and drive almost acting against the best interests of the team. Yet it was the team that benefited most when Deulofeu got it right, and in the end, his decision-making and finishing counted highest among the factors that led to Spain's victory.
He was involved in both goals as Greece became the holders' first victims of the competition, supplying eventual leading marksman Jesé Rodríguez with a pass to score before taking the corner that found its way to powerful defender Derik Osede, via Saúl Ñíguez, for 2-0.
In the 3-3 draw against Portugal, Deulofeu again provided an assist for one of Jesé's three strikes, while hosts Estonia did not escape the schemer's trickery in a 2-0 loss played out in front of a 6,000-plus crowd at the Lilleküla Stadium.
With his feet now well and truly warming to the task, the attacker produced his finest performance in the semi-final shoot-out win against France. In a dramatic encounter, Deulofeu danced tirelessly from one side of the pitch to the other as he terrorised the 2010 winners, who nonetheless kept up with their opponents throughout.
Dispatching two expertly-taken goals, feeding a team-mate for another and hitting a post might warrant any player to feel they have done enough to win a game. However, with the match all square at 3-3 at the end of extra time, Deulofeu finally sentenced France with the winning spot kick in the shoot-out.
A quieter affair in the final against Greece was perhaps unsurprising given both teams' efforts in the previous round, but, as the rain teemed down in Tallinn, it was Deulofeu who once again proved the difference – he provided the accurate pass from which Jesé registered his fifth goal of the campaign and continued Spain's dominance of this competition.