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Spain go one better

Spain were deserving winners of the title a year after losing 7-0 in the final to Germany, whose monopoly was ended in the last four by a Republic of Ireland team making a real breakthrough.

Spain go one better
Spain go one better ©uefa.com 1998-2012. All rights reserved.

One year on from losing the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final 7-0 to Germany, Spain returned to Nyon's Colovray Stadium and claimed the title.

For the first time in the competition's three-year history Germany were not champions, eliminated 1-0 in the semi-finals by a Republic of Ireland team making their bow at this level. Spain had looked an impressive outfit in their 3-0 last-four victory against the Netherlands and, after a goalless 100 minutes against Ireland, the first penalty shoot-out in the tournament's history was required.

It could not have started better for Spain. In between Sara Mérida, Laura Gutiérrez and Amanda Sampedro converting Spain's first three efforts, goalkeeper Dolores Gallardo denied Rianna Jarrett and Jessica Gleeson. Ciara O'Brien beat Gallardo to ensure Ireland were not whitewashed, but Ana Maria Catala put away her spot kick to give Spain an unassailable 4-1 lead.

That was a far cry from 12 months earlier when Spain's hopes had been unceremoniously dashed by Germany, but there was much continuity. Not only were Spain coached by 28-year-old Jorge Vilda, whose father Ángel had been in charge of the squad the previous season and was also part of the set-up, but Gutiérrez and Sampedro had both started the 2009 final, among five of that squad still remaining.

Sampedro, who lifted the trophy on her 17th birthday, told UEFA.com: "With hindsight last year was a valuable lesson and we learned a lot from it. Once we knew we were in the final again, our only thought was to win it this time."

Ireland, meanwhile, can only take positives from their run despite their heartbreaking end. No team from that nation had even qualified for a major women's competition before, but they went on to reach the final and picked up a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup berth into the bargain. Their victory against Germany was the first defeat their opponents had even suffered since this competition began in 2007/08.

"They have learned a lot and I know we can be even better," manager Noel King, who also coaches Ireland's improving senior team, said after the final. "Overall this is one of the greatest days for Irish women's football and, indeed, for Irish football."

The defeat by Ireland clearly came as a shock to the Germany players – they had not previously conceded in the campaign – but four days later they were back to their clinical selves in defeating the Netherlands 3-0 for third place, ensuring they joined Spain and Ireland in qualifying for the World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Netherlands, like their senior and U19 women's teams in their most recent European Championships, found the semi-final their limit. However after missing out on the last four in the first two seasons despite never losing a game, they took a step forward.