MIHAI DOLINSCHI – AIPS / UDINE: Spain came, played and conquered. In Italy they matched the host nation’s record of five European under-21 titles by defeating Germany 2-1 in a final they commanded almost from first minute to last.

Coach Luis de la Fuente’s team won 2-1 to conclude UEFA U21 EURO by avenging their defeat by the Germans two years ago thanks to goals from Fabian Ruiz and Dani Olmo. Germany pulled back one goal through Nadiem Amiri but too late even by their traditional powers of recovery.

Spain celebrate their fifth under-21 success

The celebratory shower of tinsel at the presentation turned the pitch blue but for much of the match the dominant colour was the red of the Spanish shirts as they mixed their possession game with some direct football which took Germany by surprise.

Only seven minutes had gone when Spain snatched a leaf out of the German book of direct football. Fabian, official best player of the tournament, capitalised on a delicate touch of the ball by Mikel Oyarzabal and strode forward to unleash a powerful 25-metre drive beyond goalkeeper Alexander Nubel.

Keeper’s blunder

Napoli midfielder Ruiz, alongside Dani Ceballos, played an important role in tirelessly recovering possession as well as a key role in Spain’s second goal in the 69th minute. His shot was spilled by Nubel and man of the match Dani Olmo was the right man in the right place to punish the goalkeeper’s mistake.

Robert Moreno, Spain’s new senior coach, saw all the emergent new generation playing at a high level but especially centre backs Jesus Vallejo and Unai Nunez. They excelled in their positioning and duels with Germany’s seven-goal top scorer Luca Waldschmidt, apart from two occasions.

The first was towards half-time when Vallejo was shown a yellow card for taking down Waldschmidt; referee Srdan Jovanovic’s decision not to show red was validated by a VAR check. Then, in the closing stages, Waldschmidt shot wide from close range after a goal area scramble.

Germany’s senior coach Joachim Low and manager Oliver Bierhoff, a former Udinese star, saw their own players apparently tired after an intense semi-final against Romania.

The midfield trio of Mahmoud Dahoud, Suat Serdar and Maximilian Eggestein were not quick enough to provide an adequate service to Waldschmidt in his role as a false No9.

Germany’s eventual pressure was rewarded with an 88th-minute goal almost out of nowhere from Nadiem Amiri but a second successive triumph and a third trophy in all proved beyond them.Both Spain and Germany, along with beaten semi-finalists France and Romania, can look ahead to another finals tournament next year, at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Tournament awards:

Best player: Fabian Ruiz (Spain)
Top scorer: Luca Waldschmidt (Germany) seven goals.

The finals:

Group A: Spain 6pts, Italy 6, Poland 6, Belgium 0. Group B: Germany 7pts, Denmark 6,  Austria 4, Serbia 0. Group C: Romania 7pts, France 7, England 1, Croatia 1.

Semi-finals: Germany 4, Romania 2; Spain 4, France 1.

Final: Spain 2, Germany 1.