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Birthday girl's winning feeling

Winning captain Amanda Sampedro is unlikely to forget her 17th birthday after Spain's final defeat of the Republic of Ireland capped a memorable year for her team-mates and coaches.

Dolores Gallardo and Amanda Sampedro show off Spain's first prize
Dolores Gallardo and Amanda Sampedro show off Spain's first prize ©Sportsfile

Spain captain Amanda Sampedro said that lifting the trophy was a "massive feeling" after her team's 4-1 victory on penalties against the Republic of Ireland following a goalless UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final.

The attacking midfielder was able to celebrate her 17th birthday in style on Saturday as she claimed the trophy in front of around 2,000 spectators at the Colovray stadium in Nyon. However, what made that moment so special was that it put the seal on a year of shared footballing experience between Spain's players, coaching staff and supporters.

"To win on penalties and go up to lift the trophy in front of all those people who had come to support us, and together with all the girls and coaches who have worked so hard together this year, was a massive feeling for me," Sampedro told UEFA.com. "I thought we played well and we continued to create chances but the ball just wouldn't go in for us."

The skilful playmaker had nearly iced her own birthday cake with a shot that found the top corner but the goal was disallowed during the second half of an exciting final that belied its 0-0 scoreline. What mattered more to Sampedro was making amends for Spain's 7-0 defeat by Germany in last year's showpiece, which she experienced together with current team-mates Laura Gutiérrez, Ivana Andrés and unused substitutes Berta Noguera and Gema Gili.

"With hindsight last year was a valuable lesson and we learned a lot from it," she said. "Once we knew we were in the final again, our only thought was to win it this time." That Spain could realise their ambition owed much also to goalkeeper Dolores Gallardo as she saved Ireland's first two spot-kicks in the shoot-out, from Rianna Jarrett and Jessica Gleeson.

"The key to penalties is to be absolutely focused on what you are doing, to decide exactly which way you are going to go, and then not to change your mind," Gallardo explained. "We didn't really practise but I had a feeling that the game would go to penalties and I am delighted I was able to play my part by saving some. We are a great group and it's brilliant we've won this trophy together."

Gallardo's heroics were the prelude to defender Ana Maria Catala's clinching conversion in Spain's 4-1 penalties win. Pressure, Catala insisted, had never been a factor: "There was always the possibility that the fourth penalty would be the decisive one, and when it came to taking it I felt fairly confident and didn't feel much pressure."

Catala also praised her side's durability on a hot afternoon in western Switzerland. "It was a really hard game," she said. "We thought it was going to be tough, but we hoped we would be able to win it within the 80 minutes. You just have to get on with it as we did in extra time. We had already qualified for the World Cup after winning our semi-final, but to be going there as European champions will make it extra special."

For Sampedro, the newly crowned champions of Europe will travel to September's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago with a fresh target. "The World Cup is going to be a new experience for us," she said, "but now we are European champions our ambition has to be to become world champions."