Italy needed extra time to beat Portugal in the final and retain their title.
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Italy 1-0 Portugal (aet)
La Mosson, Montpellier
Italy became the second team in UEFA European Under-21 Championship history to win back-to-back trophies as experience prevailed against a precocious Portugal in Montpellier. Pierluigi Orlandini scored the only goal of the final seven minutes into extra time, not long after entering the fray as a replacement for Filippo Inzaghi, as the likes of Luís Figo, Rui Costa, Sá Pinto, Jorge Almeida and Costinha were denied what would have been a maiden trophy for Portugal.
Until then the game had looked like the 6,300 spectators packed inside La Mosson would see the game decided on a penalty shoot-out after the Azzurrini's formidable defence refused to buckle under the weight of Portugal's attacking vim. Shepherded by the excellent Francesco Toldo, a back line including Christian Panucci and Fabio Cannavaro helped force extra time for the second successive match after their semi-final tie against a Zinédine Zidane-inspired France ended goalless. It went to penalties and Christian Vieri scored the decisive spot-kick as Italy booked a place in the final.
Vieri was on target in open play in the quarter-finals, setting Italy on course for a 3-1 aggregate victory against Czechoslovakia as they completed an impressive qualifying campaign that had seen them defeat surprise candidates Poland 2-1 in a pivotal final group game to top the section. The Portuguese, who had prevailed 2-0 in the reverse fixture, nevertheless qualified as one of the best two second-placed teams and eased towards a place in France with a 5-1 aggregate victory against Poland.
The momentum with them, Portugal swept aside Iberian neighbours Spain in the semi-finals thanks to second-half goals from João Pinto and Rui Costa. That set up yet another meeting with Italy and with a side full of attacking guile, hopes were high in the Portuguese camp. But the Azzurrini are past masters at this level, and ground their opponents down at La Mosson before Orlandini broke to secure victory seven minutes into extra time.