- Germany crowned UEFA Under-21 Championship winners
- Perfect warm-up for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020
- Spain go out in the semis, France disappoint and Romania impress
The 2021 UEFA Under-21 Championship came to an end on Sunday, with Germany defeating Portugal 1-0 in the final. The tournament provided plenty of pointers on the form of the four European nations who will represent the continent at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020.
andar bahar live.com reviews Germany’s run to the title and the campaigns of fellow Olympic hopefuls Spain, France and Romania.
Played in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, Sunday’s showpiece match was a first, with Germany and Portugal having never previously faced each other in the final of the competition. Runners-up to Spain in 2019 – a tournament where the four qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 were decided – Germany added a third title to their 2009 and 2017 crowns. Olympic silver medallists at Rio 2016, where they lost to Brazil in the final, the Germans will head to Japan full of confidence. Their opening game at Tokyo 2020 will come against A Seleção on 22 July.
Stefan Kuntz’s charges got off to a fairly sluggish start in the competition, winning just one of their group games and drawing the other two. Denmark took them all the way in the quarter-finals, with the Germans winning 6-5 on penalties following a 2-2 draw after extra time. Kuntz’s men then edged out the Netherlands 2-1 in the semis.
In the final, they gave few opportunities to a Portugal side that had scored 12 goals to that point, more than any other side in the tournament. Dangerous on the break, Germany secured victory at the start of the second half, with Lukas Nmecha scoring from a clever assist by man of the match Ridle Baku. Nmecha finished the competition as top scorer with four goals, while Baku’s three assists were also a tournament high.
Defending champions Spain topped their group ahead of Italy and took on Croatia in the quarter-finals. After conceding a late penalty, Luis de la Fuente’s side eventually completed a 2-1 win in extra-time to advance to the last four. Waiting for them there were neighbours Portugal, who stopped the Spanish from reaching their third consecutive UEFA Under-21 final courtesy of a late Jorge Cuenca own goal.
Spain remain tied with Italy as the most successful nations in the history of the competition, with five wins apiece.
Beaten 1-0 by Denmark in their Group C opener, France bounced back with 2-0 wins over Russia and Iceland before losing 2-1 to the Netherlands in the last eight. "It’s a massive disappointment,” said Sylvain Ripoll at the end of a game in which his side opened the scoring before the Dutch completed their comeback with a stoppage-time winner.
“We’re going to look at things in the cold light of day,” added Ripoll. “Our task in the days to come will be to put together the most effective team for the Olympics. Right now, though, we need to learn the lessons. It’s tough to lose a match like that."
Though Romania were unable to repeat their 2019 run to the semi-finals, they impressed nevertheless by going unbeaten in a very tight Group A, where they earned respective 1-1 and 0-0 draws with the Netherlands and Germany and beat Hungary 2-1. Despite amassing five points, they went out of the competition on goal difference.
“I’m satisfied because of the attitude my players showed on the pitch,” said coach Adrian Mutu after his side was knocked out. “Our performances throughout the tournament have been outstanding. They surpassed themselves and gave their all, which is the most important thing in my eyes.”