Portugal 1-1 Spain (Portugal win on penalties)
Hélio Sousa and his team are the toast of the nation tonight as Portugal lifted the Under-17 European Championship in Azerbaijan.
Portugal crowned a brilliant tournament with victory against Iberian rivals Spain, winning the penalty shootout after a hard-fought 1-1 draw over the 80 minutes.
The last time the Seleção won this competition was in 2003 with a side that contained João Moutinho, Vieirinha and Miguel Veloso, and it will be interesting to see if some of the current crop enjoy similar stellar careers.
As much as the lack of public didn’t show it, the match’s high tempo from the start screamed “final” to everybody with their eyes on the Baku pitch.
The Spaniards started off strongly but it wasn’t long until the best team of tournament took control of the ball and started to create danger. Always with both full-backs being an integral part of the attack, Ruben Vinagre had a brilliant first half with some good initiatives down the left flank.
Quina was a force to be reckoned with in the midfield and had the first clear-cut chance of the match, flicking the ball over a Spanish defender, then smashing it against the bar with a right-footed volley.
The intensity that was being injected into the game by Vinagre was soon mimicked on the opposite flank, with the relentless Diogo Dalot bombing up and down the wing continuously. In one of these charges forward the Porto full-back aimed at goal and with a well-placed right footed strike, scoring for the second game in a row.
The build-up to the goal involved more great play from Vinagre - these two full-backs are something special.
It wouldn’t be a final with Portugal in it if the “Nação Valente” could just breeze through it, though. Diaz took the only shot for Spain in the first half, tying the game before half time. The ball went over Diogo Dias and, despite the efforts from the Portuguese defence, the match was squared.
The game changed at half-time and in the early stages of the second half you could already foresee that Spain would be in control. As a side that very much enjoys controlling play through possession, a bit like Portugal, this game would always be about who could do it better. The team that did dominate possession would clearly put its opponent in an uncomfortable position that they’re not use to and could take advantage of it.
In the second period of the match the Spaniards created more of the chances and came close to scoring a couple of times.
Portugal put together only one or two solid offensive plays after the interval, with one of these resulting in a Quina shot way over the bar. Both Vinagre’s and Quina’s perspective dipped a bit in the later stages of the match, with the latter substituted for Rafael Leão.
A bit of fortune definitely came into play in the second half for the young Conquerors but a draw after 80 minutes was a fair result.
The penalties were here and you just know that every connoisseur of Portuguese Football was fearing the worse, especially after the way the U20s (also coached by Hélio Sousa) fell out of the World Cup last Summer against Brazil. But the youngsters remained focused and, with a bit of fortune (since no penalty was saved), won the shootout.
Stars in the making?
Individually, Jose Gomes is obviously someone that has to be highlighted, being the Euro’s golden boot winner, but my personal highlight will go to Diogo Dalot. Relentless, consistent and very technically gifted, besides treating each play like it’s the last. It is rare to see all of these qualities in a youngster, but Porto have a full-back for the future.
With that said, the team was successful as a unit and a lot of credit is also due to every single staff member (both club and country coaches) and also every family member – let’s please not forget how important a healthy home and school environment can be for youngsters to thrive so early in their careers.
Overall it was a fantastic tournament for Hélio Sousa’s men with the trophy being just an added bonus to a group of such organised and talented players.
by Tiago Estêvão
Portugal: Diogo Costa, Diogo Dalot, Diogo Queirós (Cap.), Diogo Leite, Rúben Vinagre; Florentino, Gedson Fernandes, Domingos Quina (Rafael Leão, 78´), João Filipe, Mesaque Dju (Miguel Luís, 55´), José Gomes.
[1-0] Diogo Dalot, 27’
[1-1] Brahim Diaz, 32’