Spain’s near-monopoly on the Under-21 European Championship trophy grew stronger on Sunday, as La Rojita celebrated their third title (of five tournaments held) this decade with a 2-1 victory over Germany in the final in Udine, Italy.
Sweden (2015) and Germany (2017) are the only two nations other than Spain to rein supreme over Europe’s U-21 age group this decade. Spain won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2013, the same period in which Spain’s senior team won EURO 2008, World Cup 2010 and EURO 2012 in successive major tournament appearances.
Fabian Ruiz scored game’s opening goal in just the 7th minute, and a worthy final-winner it looked to be more than an hour. After picking the ball up near midfield, the Napoli midfielder surged forward before uncorking a low, curling effort just inside the far post of Alexander Nubel’s goal.
Nubel was called upon to make saves just four times in the game — half of which came during a five-second sequence in the 69th minute. After making the initial save on Ruiz’s shot from distance, Nubel spilled the ball in front of his six-yard box. Dani Olmo (Dinamo Zagreb) pounced quickly and lifted the ball over Nubel as he scrambled back to his feet.
Nadiem Amiri (Hoffenheim) gave Germany a late lifeline when he struck the ball from nearly 30 yards out — aided by the deflection of a defender — in the 88th minute. That’s as close are the Germans would get, though.
Golden Boot winner Luca Waldschmidt (Freiburg) was rendered largely ineffective in the final after scoring seven goals (five in the group stage, two in the semifinals) earlier in the tournament.