Russia's deadly nature from the penalty spot eventually came to define the 2013 UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Slovakia, as Dmitri Khomukha's men decided things by that method in both semi-final and final, to lift the trophy for the second time.
Indeed, their only previous success came with a final victory on penalties in 2006, and this year's crop reflected their cool, calm coach Khomukha, who did things with a minimum of fuss, to come out on top. After stifling an impressive Italy in the final, it was captain Anton Mitryushkin, who saved from Davide Di Molfetta, Giacomo Sciacca and Andrea Palazzi, who allowed central midfielder Sergei Makarov to step up and smash in the winning penalty.
Beaten semi-finalists Sweden and Slovakia, emerged from Group A despite making their bow at this level. Backed by impressive support, the hosts made the ideal start with an added-time winner from substitute Martin Slaninka giving them victory against Austria before the MŠK Žilina player completed his team's comeback from 2-0 down to draw with Switzerland and move to the brink of the last four. The point they required to progress came in a goalless draw with Sweden in the duo's final group meeting, which also sent the Scandinavians through.
Gustav Engvall's strike meant Roland Larsson's side surprised the Swiss 1-0 on their finals debut before they just about withstood a fearsome second-half onslaught from Austria to earn a point and inch themselves to within touching distance of the semi-finals. With their form improving game-on-game, Austria secured third place in the section, and qualification for this year's FIFA U-17 World Cup, with a 2-1 defeat of Switzerland.
Khomukha's side showed their final potential early, opening Group B with a 3-0 win against Ukraine, before a slow-starting Italy managed to keep a skillful Croatia side goalless in Nitra. The Azzurrini's title hopes appeared in trouble in their second game, when 1-0 down to Ukraine with five minutes remaining. But Mario Pugliese completed the turnaround in added time, and Daniele Zoratto's men did not look back.
Croatia again were unable to get past Russia, meaning a 1-1 draw between the two eventual finalists was enough to take them through in the group's final game. Croatia's 2-1 win against Ukraine did take them to the World Cup.
With momentum growing with every minute played, Italy really hit their straps in the semi-final, ending home hopes with a 2-0 win against Slovakia, as Pugliese and Elio Capradossi both got their second of the tournament, while things were much tighter in the other last-four encounter. After a 0-0 draw against ten-man Sweden, things were finally settled after an epic penalty shoot-out, as Ramil Sheydaev scored the decisive kick to win it 10-9 for Russia and set up a rematch with Italy.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.