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2013 Under-21 EURO: Spain a class apart in Israel

Spain found the clear skies and warm welcome of Israel to their taste as they defended the U21 title in imperious fashion, winning all five games in typically stylish fashion.

Italy 2-4 Spain
(Immobile 10, Borini 80; Thiago 6, 31, 38p, Isco 66p)
Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem

Spain arrived in Israel as defending champions and favourites to win again. Expectations were high, but Julen Lopetegui's men managed to exceed them by winning all five games – their fluid football proving too much even for a resolute and talented Italy side in the Jerusalem final.

Captain Thiago Alcántara stole the show in that game, scoring three goals before half-time, but this was a triumph for ultimate team play as Spain displayed the kind of a telepathic style that has helped the nation dominate the international scene at most levels in recent times.

Morata, Isco, Wijnaldum: The best goals of the 2013 U21s

The tournament quickly developed a trend for result-changing late goals, starting in the first match as hosts Israel spurned the chance to open with three points, conceding an added-time equaliser to Norway in Netanya. Leroy Fer got in on the act the next day, firing the Netherlands to a thrilling victory against Germany, who had fought back from two down in Petah Tikva.

Both finalists also struck late to begin on a winning note, and while Spain repeated the trick against Germany on matchday two, Italy hit home hopes with a 4-0 success in Tel Aviv to signal their intent.


That loss for 2009 winners Germany meant they bowed out early, as did England, who lost to a Norway side that continued to impress. No team, though, looked as dangerous as the Netherlands in the early going. They scored another five against Russia with Cor Pot having the luxury of fielding a first XI that had amassed 56 senior caps between them.

Classic Spain U21 goals

Spain's match winner from the substitutes' bench in their first two games, Álvaro Morata, started against the Dutch on matchday three in Group B and scored again as La Roja ran out 3-0 victors against a second-string Netherlands outfit.

The Israeli public were rewarded for their loyalty when the biggest crowd for a match at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium (the record would be broken in the final) saw them earn a send-off victory against point-less England in Group A, Ofir Krieff getting the only goal to delight the home faithful.

Spain finally ended Norway's challenge in the semi-finals with Morata again coming off the bench to grab the last goal in a 3-0 triumph, but the other game was far tighter and needed a 79th-minute Fabio Borini strike to separate the Netherlands and Italy.

How the under-21 finals were won 1996-2017

The final matched the two most successful countries in the competition's history and the 29,320 that attended could have been forgiven for thinking it would be a low-scoring affair, with only goal conceded between them en route to the decider. There were two in the first ten minutes, though, and although Italy got the second of those to raise the possibility of an upset, it soon became the Thiago show.

The FC Barcelona midfielder had registered a spectacular effort in the 2011 final, but upped the stakes at the Teddy with a first-half hat-trick as Spain saved some of their best football for last – and left Israel as they had arrived, as champions.