Spain retain their European Under-21 Championship title after Final win over Italy
Spain 4-2 Italy
UEFA European Under-21 Championship
5pm, Tuesday 18 June 2013
Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem
by Zarif Rasul
Spain successfully defended their UEFA European Under-21 Championship crown after a first half hat-trick from Thiago Alcantara propelled them to an emphatic 4-2 victory over Italy.
The game was a repeat of the Euro 2012 Final in Kiev last summer between the two nations' senior sides. Once again the Spanish prevailed thanks, primarily, to the efforts of the Barcelona midfielder, who claimed his second Under-21s title.
Thiago, 22, struck three times inside the space of 32 minutes as Spain’s youngsters mimicked their senior counterparts in successfully retaining their European trophy.
Malaga playmaker Isco compounded Azzurrini misery with a second-half spot-kick.
In fairness, Italy provided greater resistance and offered more attacking threats than Spain’s previous four opponents on their journey to Jerusalem.
Ciro Immobile netted to end Spain’s 542-minute spell without conceding a goal at the European Under-21 Championship Finals – a record that stretched back to La Rojita’s triumphant campaign of 2011 – while Liverpool striker Fabio Borini reduced the arrears late on.
Both sides started brightly, although it took Spain just six minutes to break the deadlock.
Striker Alvaro Morata, who started ahead of Rodrigo Moreno, spun away from Alessandro Florenzi on the left-hand side and centred toward Thiago. He nodded home from point-blank range.
Far from being disheartened, Italy ramped up their efforts and were rewarded with a leveller within five minutes.
Immobile expertly trapped a long ball forward from Giulio Donati and guided his shot beyond David de Gea, who conceded for the first time in Israel.
And Devis Mangia’s side could – and probably should – have taken the lead midway through the first half but De Gea stood up tall to thwart Alessandro Florenzi, who was clean through on goal.
But it was Spain who found the back of the net next as Thiago restored his side’s lead. Koke’s angled cross from the left was missed by Luca Caldirola and trapped by Thiago. The Italian-born Spanish star swivelled before firing a left-footed shot which squirmed through Alessandro Bardi and into the back of the net.
Julen Lopetegui’s side were in complete control by this stage and opened up a two-goal lead before the break when Thiago dispatched from 12 yards out after Donati was adjudged to have fouled Cristian Tello.
It was one-way traffic after the break and, after Thiago and Isco spurned chances, the latter sent Bardi the wrong way from the penalty spot after Vasco Regini had clumsily felled Martin Montoya.
Borini cut the deficit ten minutes from time with a swerving effort from outside the box, but it failed to spoil the mood for Spain, as they clinched their fourth title at this level.
Bardi; Donati, Bianchetti, Caldirola, Regini; Florenzi (Saponara 58), Rossi, Verratti (Crimi 76), Insigne; Borini, Immobile (Gabbiadini 58). Subs not used: Leali, Colombi, Biraghi, Capuano, Marrone, Destro, Sansone, Bertolacci, Paloschi.
De Gea; Montoya, Bartra, Martinez, Moreno; Koke (Camacho 86), Illarramendi, Thiago Alcantara; Isco, Morata (Rodrigo 80), Tello (Muniain 70). Subs not used: Marino, Joel, Nacho, Marc Muniesa, Alvaro, Sarabia, Carvajal, Alvaro Vazquez.
Matej Jug (SVN)