- Spain defeat England on penalties after dramatic finale
- *La Roja *claim record-extending ninth continental title at U-17 level
- Finalists will be joined by Germany, France and Turkey at this year's FIFA U-17 World Cup
The UEFA U-17 European Championship 2017 in Croatia reached its climax on Friday evening, with Spain ending up as worthy winners. The competition also served to determine the five European participants at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, which will take place from 6 – 28 October in India. Alongside the two finalists, France, Germany and Turkey also booked their tickets to the global showdown.
*FIFA.com *rounds up the action from the European qualifying tournament.
Spain and England met in the final for the third time in this age category. La Roja lifted the title in 2007 but the Three Lions exacted their revenge three years later.
Their third encounter could hardly have been more dramatic. Spain substitute Nacho Diaz headed his side level at 2-2 in the sixth minute of additional time, forcing the tie to a penalty shoot-out in which Rhian Brewster and Joel Latibeaudiere missed for England. Spain had previously beaten Germany on penalties in the semi-finals.
The Iberians will now head to the U-17 World Cup as continental champions, with Croatia 2017 representing their record-extending ninth title at this level. Although yet to triumph at the global finals, they nevertheless have an impressive record, finishing as runners-up three times and earning the bronze medal twice.
Europe's U-17 World Cup participants *England *had won all 11 previous games during this edition of the competition ahead of the title-decider, and showed impressive consistency at the finals. Despite the disappointing defeat, the Three Lions can travel to the U-17 World Cup in October with plenty of confidence. England made their U-17 World Cup debut in 2007 and were knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals – just as they were four years later. At the 2015 edition in Chile they failed to make it beyond the group stage.
*Germany *demonstrated an insatiable appetite for goals as they sealed their passage to India, finding the net 17 times in five games to finish as the tournament's top scorers. The only time they failed to hit the target was in the semi-final against Spain, which they subsequently lost. Germany have not yet lifted the U-17 World Cup trophy, and suffered a 2-0 reverse to Croatia in the round of 16 in 2015.
The tournament's surprise package was undoubtedly Turkey, who finished as group runners-up behind Spain and ahead of Italy. A narrow 1-0 triumph over Hungary in the quarter-finals secured a maiden qualification for them at an U-17 World Cup, before slipping to a 2-1 defeat to England in the last four.
*France *snapped up the last ticket to India thanks to a 1-0 win over Hungary in the World Cup play-off. Hungary had beaten *Les Bleuets *3-2 in the group stage, but France bounced back with subsequent victories over Faroe Islands (7-0) and Scotland (2-1) to progress to the last eight, where they lost 3-1 to Spain. This will be France's sixth appearance at an U-17 World Cup. At the 2015 edition in Chile they packed for home after the round of 16 following a 5-3 defeat to Costa Rica on penalties.
*Players to watch *France's *Amine Gouiri *was virtually unstoppable in Croatia. Although he had only scored once in four qualifying matches, he plundered nine goals in five outings at the tournament proper - a new U-17 European Championship record – and got on the scoresheet at least once in every game.
Germany also boast an attacking talent in their ranks: Fiete Arp. The 17-year-old scored seven goals in five matches and hit a 13-minute hat-trick in his side's 5-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina – the fastest ever treble in UEFA U-17 EURO history.
Spain captain *Abel Ruiz *rippled the net four times at the 2016 edition en route to finishing as the second-highest scorer at the tournament. He was one of his side's key players again this year, and has now not only made more U-17 European Championship appearances than anyone else (including qualifying games), he is joint-top of the all-time scorers' chart with Portugal's Jose Gomes on 16 goals.
*The fact *The two tournament newcomers struggled against the more established sides. Faroe Islands returned home from their first UEFA finals without scoring and without a point following defeats to Scotland, France and Hungary. Norway managed to earn a 2-2 draw against the Netherlands.
*The stat 11 – *The semi-final between Spain and Germany, which the former won 4-2 on penalties, was the first time a shoot-out at a UEFA U-17 EURO took place under the new test format. This stipulates that the order in which teams take their spot-kicks is to alternate, following the pattern ABBA rather than ABAB.
*The quote *
"Spain are champions of the U-17 EURO! Amazing! Gooooo team!"
*The official Spanish national team is understandably overjoyed at *La Roja claiming the continental crown.