UEFA.com reporters Simon Hart and Nuno Tavares cast an expert eye over Tuesday's U21 EURO final between Sweden and Portugal – where might the game be won and lost?
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Simon Hart (Sweden): Inside half an hour of their first match against Italy, Sweden were a goal and a man down after Alexander Milošević's dismissal. Yet their response at half-time set the tone for what has followed. "We decided to go for it – we went back to two forwards and three central midfielders," said coach Håkan Ericson. That boldness earned them a 2-1 comeback win and the Swedes were up and running.
Nuno Tavares (Portugal): The importance of winning the first match at a major tournament is one of football's most cited truisms, but for Portugal it was about more than echoing the cliche. Classified among the tournament favourites due to a perfect qualifying record – and facing an England team who recently beat them in a friendly – Rui Jorge's men knew victory was crucial. From there, the mental battle was won.
Simon Hart: John Guidetti plays a big role both on the pitch and off it – where he even arranged the recording of the squad's unofficial song 'Nya Sveriga' (New Sweden) with Swedish rapper Dany M. Yet the key man has been Oscar Lewicki for his efforts in central midfield alongside captain Oscar Hiljemark. The clever, hard-working Malmö player has been described as the team's "cleaning lady" (stådgumma), which is not the most glamorous sobriquet but sums up the fact he does the essential work that makes his team tick.
Nuno Tavares: Bernardo Silva has been receiving all sorts of praise for his exquisite touch and has already been named man of the match twice. However, William Carvalho has been just as impressive in dominating central midfield, never more so than in the memorable semi-final defeat of Germany. William's ability to overpower the opposition allows his own team to launch swift counterattacks and make the most of their offensive arsenal.
Simon Hart: Team spirit is their most obvious asset. "We enjoy playing for each other and fighting for each other" is how defender Filip Helander put it and this togetherness has turned them into this competition's Rocky Balboa – the team who refuse to lie down. Set up in a classic 4-4-2 formation, they play with admirable discipline and organisation but are not just hard to break down; they carry a significant threat on the counter with the help of Isaac Thiese Kelin's ability to hold the ball up and against Denmark gave their most confident attacking display yet.
Nuno Tavares: Historically labelled as the European Brazilians due to their technique and fantasy on the pitch, the Portuguese have been faithful to their past in the Czech Republic, the likes of Bernardo, João Mário and Ricardo firing on all cylinders. However, their success has been built from the back, with goalkeeper José Sá conceding just once in four matches and Paulo Oliveira commanding the defence with a mixture of flair and aggressiveness. Portugal's quality is matched only by their maturity and commitment.
Simon Hart: It seems fair to say that Sweden do not have Portugal's creative flair. There are also questions about the energy levels of one or two players given their exertions so far – and they will need to be at their sharpest, physically and mentally, against Rui Jorge's side. Their players have less top-level international experience than the Portuguese too and none of their tradition of success at youth level.
Nuno Tavares: With a team based largely on on the one that had won the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship, Portugal seemed poised to lift their first European U21 trophy in 1994. However, not even Luís Figo and Rui Costa could drag their country past a stubborn Italy side in the Montpellier final. The ghost of that defeat – Pierluigi Orlandini scoring in extra time – appears to be the only possible cloud hanging over a Portuguese team who have so far looked a cut above.
Simon Hart: Portugal will have more of the ball but Sweden, as Ericson has noted, had just as many shots on target in their group meeting. They defied the odds then, as they have done ever since beating France in the play-offs, so why not one more time?
Nuno Tavares: Portugal will certainly head into the final as favourites. The odd lapse aside, their standard has rarely dropped in the Czech Republic and their superiority should be telling again on Tuesday.