A ‘perfect’ Thiago Alcantara hat-trick ensured Spain won back-to-back European Under 21 Championship crowns.
The Barcelona midfielder was superb in everything he did, from the first minute to the last. He dictated play and showed why he is a cut above the rest of this competition – but the rest of the side proved why they aren’t far behind the senior-capped midfield maestro and in years to come will carry on this generation of golden Spanish footballers.
Spain’s skipper put them ahead only minutes into the final at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem when he headed home Alvaro Morata’s neatly-placed dink from close range.
Ciro Immobile equalised for the Italians when he left behind Spain’s high-pressing defensive line and beautifully controlled a looping lob over the top to chip over a helpless David De Gea.
It could have been another story had Allessandro Florenzi netted from a similar situation – he hit his effort down the throat of De Gea who got his body in the way. He would have another chance later on, but ultimately tired legs failed him and he was unable to convert once again.
It was 2-1 when Koké magnificently found Thiago in the box. The man-of-the-match had it all to do though as he controlled the ball with his chest between two players before striking home with his left foot on the turn.
A burst of pace by Cristian Tello – something we have rarely seen this tournament but welcome in abundance – saw the Barcelona striker run free down the left hand side and win a penalty for his club teammate to complete a perfect hat-trick. Thiago cooly slotted his penalty down the middle of the goal as he saw the goalkeeper dive – confidence at it’s peak.
In the second half, Isco put Spain further ahead when he converted the second penalty of the game when Martin Montoya was fouled for a similar cutback to Tello’s earlier foul.
Fabio Borini replied for Italy late on with a well-driven hit from outside the box but by then it was too late and Spain will receive even more plaudits than they already have in media outlets throughout the world.
They were deserved winners of the tournament and more than deserved winners on the night as their array of short interchanging passes and small smart skills have gripped not just their own nation but a world of football fans and only heightened the reputation of the under 21 tournament once again.
More reaction to come later and tomorrow on The Youth Radar.
- European Under 21 Championship Final Preview: Italy U21 v Spain U21 (theyouthradar.com)
- VIDEO: Madrid and Man City After Silky Spaniard Isco (theyouthradar.com)