The UEFA European U-17 Championship enjoyed a thrilling finale with two of the game's four goals coming in extra time before Russia finally prevailed in a tense penalty shoot-out.
The eventual winners and their Czech opponents had reached the final by beating Germany and Spain respectively and both showed their willingness to attack right from the off off, with chances coming thick and fast during a first period that saw both keepers at their agile best as the scoreline somehow remained goalless.
Russia introduced creative midfielder Aleksandr Marenich at half-time in an attempt to bring more penetration to their play and, although it was the Czechs who started the brighter, Aleksandr Prudnikov found space in the area to thump the ball past Marek Stech and give his side the lead in their first attack following the re-start.
A goal down, the Czechs went for broke and, having launched wave after wave of attack on the Russian goal, their attacking approach was finally rewarded three minutes into injury time when Tomas Pekhart headed home a dramatic equaliser to take the game into extra time.
Though stunned by this late blow, it was to the young Russians that they refused to let their heads drop, taking the lead once more midway through the first period, Marenich reacting quickest to Stech's parry to fire the ball home. The Czechs continued to prove dogged opponents, however, and within two minutes the scores were level again after substitute Tomas Necid rose highest to head past Evgeni Pomazan in the Russian goal.
With neither side able to grab the decisive goal, the game was settled by the dreaded penalty shoot-out, and the stage was thus set for Russia's Pomazan to become his side's hero. In the game's decisive moment, the keeper denied Petr Wojnar, leaving Evgeni Korotaev to strike the decisive spot-kick and send his team-mates wild with delight.
"It was an amazing game, truly fantastic," reflected a delighted-looking Russian coach Igor Kolyvanov. "It's been a very gruelling tournament for us, and all that's left now is to congratulate my lads on their display." Meanwhile, his Czech counterpart Jakub Dovalil had this to say: "Russia defended really well, just as we expected they would. They also played very well on the break. They were the stronger side and they won. I congratulate them on their performance."
The match for third place also went to penalties, with the coaches of Germany and Spain, Bernd Stover and Juan Santiesteba respectively, using the game to give several of their reserve players a run out. After a dismal first half, Spain's star man Bojan Krkic put his side ahead only for a goal from Germany's Manuel Fischer to take the game into extra time.
In the 30 minutes that followeds, both teams threw men forward in attack but to no avail. The accumulated fatigue saw gaps open up in both defences, but the equally tired legs up front were unable to capitalise. In the end it would be Coca, Spain's second-choice keeper enjoying his first start of the tournament, who staked his claim for a more regular berth, saving three penalties and sealing third place for his side.
Stars are born
Like many of its predecessors, this year's UEFA European U-17 Championship has seen the emergence of a number of potential stars of world football. Two weeks of high-quality football action on Luxembourg soil will have seen many scouts from football's top clubs eagerly scribbling in their notebooks.
Russia's Pomazan was clearly one of the finest keepers on show, his superb performance throughout the tournament key to ensuring the trophy would be making its way to Moscow.
The tournament also unleashed a handful of lethal front men. Germany's Manuel Fischer, Spain's Bojan Krkic and Czech Republic's Tomas Necid all shared the top goalscorer award with five goals each. Krkic's performance was all the more sensational when one considers that the FC Barcelona starlet is just 15 years of age and failed to start any of his side's games.
Czech Republic-Russia 2-2
Match for third place:
Spain-Czech Republic 0-2
Spain 9 pts
Russia 6 pts
Hungary 3 pts
Luxembourg 0 pts
Germany 7 pts
Czech Republic 7 pts
Serbia and Montenegro 1 pt
Belgium 1 pt
Serbia and Montenegro-Czech Republic 1-2
Belgium-Serbia and Montenegro 1-1
Germany-Czech Republic 0-0
Germany-Serbia and Montenegro 4-1
Czech Republic-Belgium 3-1