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Pomares helps Spain retain crown

Spain proved that their 2010 triumph was no one-off as they retained the title with 15-year-old star Alba Pomares deciding a desperately tight final against France in added time.

Spain players start the celebrations at the final whistle after defeating France
Spain players start the celebrations at the final whistle after defeating France ©Sportsfile

A year after winning the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final 4-1 on penalties against the Republic of Ireland, Spain returned to Nyon's Stade Colovray to retain their crown, beating a spirited France side 1-0 in the deciding match thanks to Alba Pomares's last-gasp strike.

As coach Spain coach Jorge Vilda remarked: "Winning the tournament is a great feeling after the long journey we have been on." And what a journey it was. La Rojita kicked off the defence of their title in autumn 2010 as part of a two-round qualification phase that, in total, produced 84 matches, with 41 nations taking part.

By July 2011, it was down to four. The titleholders had seen off stiff opposition from the likes of the Netherlands as they successfully returned to the finals for the third year in a row. They were joined by France whose only blip in qualifying was a 3-2 defeat by Sweden.

Germany, given a bye to the second qualifying round, overcame Finland, Russia and Denmark to remain the sole side to reach all four final tournaments. Meanwhile, Iceland became the only team from their nation to make the last four of a UEFA competition, impressively scoring 37 goals and beating Sweden, Italy and England as part of a perfect qualification campaign.

However, Iceland's final tournament debut proved to be a baptism of fire as Spain ran out 4-0 winners in the first semi-final. An Alexia Putellas double after Marina García's 12th-minute opener put the holders three up while Glódís Perla Viggosdóttir's second-half own goal sealed a comfortable victory in which Pomares was the architect of three of Spain's strikes.

Germany fell at the semi-final stage for the second season running after a nail-biting encounter against France, who finally got the better of the team that had previously knocked them out every year. Lina Magull put Ralf Peter's outfit ahead, but goals from Claire Lavogez and Lydia Belkacemi turned the tables before Annabel Jäger equalised with 12 minutes left of a thrilling contest. With the ensuing shoot-out into sudden death, Jäger had the chance to win it but put her penalty wide, as did her captain Melanie Leupolz, and France striker Meryll Wenger's confident spot kick turned out to be the deciding strike.

Jäger redeemed herself in the third-place play-off against Iceland, as she and team-mate Lina Magull scored a hat-trick apiece to finish tournament top scorers. Sara Däbritz and Leupolz also registered to help Germany return to winning ways in style with an 8-2 victory, while Telma Thrastadróttir and Aldís Kara Lúdvíksdóttir restored a little pride to Iceland's ranks with a pair of classy finishes.

Then, in a classic case of two excellent teams offering no quarter, France and Spain put on a wonderfully contested final for the many fans that packed out the Stade Colovray on a balmy summer's evening. Finely poised at 0-0 and with the spectre of extra time looming, it always appeared a moment of magic would be needed to break the deadlock.

It came when Spain captain Gema Gili picked out Pomares with a delightful back-heel and the 15-year-old held her nerve to smash a dipping strike over France keeper Solène Durand, sending the Spanish faithful into raptures and providing a fine finish to a thoroughly entertaining tournament.