The 13th final tournament of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship was the first to be played in Hungary, though the host association had set a distant precedent by staging the final tournament in 1990 when the competition still bore the Under-18 label. The competitive nature of international football at Under-19 level was underlined by the fact that only two of the national associations who had travelled to Lithuania for the final tournament in 2013 were present in Hungary: Portugal and the defending champions Serbia, who warranted credit for being among the top eight for the fourth successive season.
The list of participants highlighted an easterly shift in a competition hitherto dominated by western nations. Portugal were the only team to hail from west of Germany. Austria qualified for the final tournament for the first time since 2010, Ukraine since winning the competition in 2009, and Bulgaria, Hungary and Germany since 2008. The Israeli team made its debut in the final tournament.
Four venues were used for the tournament played from 19 to 31 July 2014. The four teams drawn into Group A were based in Budapest, with games played either in the capital or in nearby Felcsút. The Group B teams set up headquarters in Győr, where the opening two fixtures were staged as a double-header at ETO Park Stadion. On the second matchday, the two matches were also played at the same venue – Perutz Stadion in the city of Pápa.
All four stadiums were used for the matches which brought down the curtain on the group stage, with the three knockout games then disputed in Felcsút and Budapest, and the final staged at Szusza Ferenc Stadion in the capital. The tournament was played under a wide variety of climatic conditions, ranging from heat which prompted water breaks during matches to storms and torrential rain which served to underline the quality of the playing surfaces.
The final tournament featured educational sessions on doping control procedures and the career-threatening dangers posed by match-fixing. No fewer than 12 of the 15 matches were screened to a pan-European audience by Eurosport. In terms of attendances at the venues, the three matches involving the host team accounted for over half of the accumulative total of 32,106 for the event, at an average of 2,140 per fixture.
Pat Murphy (Sportsfile)
Ramsey Cardy (Sportsfile)