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Italy prevail in year of the underdog

Germany were the big favourites ahead of the tournament in France yet it was Italy who stole the show as they won the Women's U19 title for the first time.

Italy rejoice after winning the trophy for the first time
Italy rejoice after winning the trophy for the first time ©Sportsfile

Holders Germany arrived in the Loire Valley with the favourites' tag once again dangling from their neck after a typically impressive qualifying campaign. An 8-3 thrashing of well-fancied Russia caught the eye in particular, and a sixth title in eleven seasons was, for some, a formality. Yet their coach Maren Meinert admitted she thought differently and so it panned out – but few would have predicted the eventual winners.

Germany certainly started off well enough, proving too strong for England in a rematch of the previous year's final. A draw with Sweden followed before they really underlined their strength by overwhelming Scotland 7-0 in their final Group B outing, six different players registering.

Sweden joined the holders in the last four, but there were more surprises in the other section as hosts France had their ambitions brought to a premature end. A 3-1 defeat by Italy did most of the damage, the Azzurrine making it two wins from two having beaten Norway in their opening fixture thanks to a last-gasp strike from their very own 'Maradona', Tatiana Bonetti.

Norway recovered, however, booking their progress with a 1-1 draw, yet it was in the last four that they really made their presence known. Paired with Germany, the underdogs again displayed an impressive resilience after going behind early on. Ida Elise Enget's equaliser forced an additional 30 minutes and ultimately penalties, and the No10 was Norway's hero again, sealing a 4-2 shoot-out triumph and a final against Italy.

The sides also met in qualifying, where a 2-1 helped Norway top Group 5 and leave Italy with a nervous wait to see if they would get their chance as the best runners-up. They did, and how they took it. Having squeezed through qualifying, a side captained by senior international Sara Gama stepped up a gear in the last four and a Sweden team their coach Calle Barrling had said were "in flow" were emphatically sunk. Pamela Gueli struck twice in a 4-0 triumph, with the excellent Alice Parisi rounding things off from the spot in the closing stages and the Azzurrine No10 repeated the feat in the final.

With 19 minutes left of a nervy showpiece in Tours, Gueli was checked by Gunhild Herregården as she powered into the penalty area. Parisi stepped up and made no mistake as Italy claimed the trophy for the first time in their history, leaving Norway coach Jarl Torkse to cast himself in the role of "Mr Silver" after ending a finals on the losing side yet again.