The 2015 UEFA European Under-19 Championship decider between Spain and Russia in Katerini on Sunday night was my 12th at this level, given I have attended every final since 2004. Here's a selection of some of my favourites.
2005: France 3-1 England
The teams had played out a 1-1 group-stage draw, and England looked set to take the trophy for the first time when Lee Holmes's deflected shot gave them a half-time lead at a rain-swept Windsor Park in Belfast. France had other ideas, however, second-half strikes from Mohamed Chakouri, Abdoulaye Balde and Yohan Gouffran securing them the title. As an aside, I spent post-match pursuing then England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson for an interview.
2006: Scotland 1-2 Spain
A Spain squad featuring Gerard Piqué, Mario Suárez, Javi García and Juan Mata were perhaps the most dominant I've seen at a U19 finals; they beat Scotland 4-0 in their group and overwhelmed semi-final opponents Austria 5-0. Two goals from finals top scorer Alberto Bueno appeared to herald another comfortable victory, but Graham Dorrans pulled one back to set up a frantic finale in which Dorrans had another effort blocked, before Spain could celebrate their third success in this category.
2009: Ukraine 2-0 England
It always makes a big difference to the tournament if the hosts do well, yet no team managed to lift the trophy on home soil in the first seven editions of the U19 competition. That all changed when, in front of a record 25,100 crowd at the RSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Donetsk, a goal five minutes into each half from Denys Garmash and Dmytro Korkishko earned Ukraine their first U19 triumph and kick-started jubilant home celebrations. Twelve hours later I bumped into both teams in a nightclub; most of the Ukraine players were still wearing their kit.
2010: France 2-1 Spain
Twelve months later, the hosts held sway again. Spain had swaggered their way to the final, highlights including Ezequiel Calvente's audacious wrong-footed penalty in the group stage against Italy and a free-kick routine from which Sergio Canales scored the clinching third goal in the semi-final with England. Indeed, a fifth crown seemed to be theirs when Rodrigo gave them an 18th-minute advantage in the showpiece. France had been beaten 4-0 by the Spaniards in the U17 final two years earlier but roared back after the break, Gilles Sunu levelling on 49 minutes and, just as extra time beckoned, Alexandre Lacazette heading in Gaël Kakuta's cross to procure the trophy for a second time.
2011: Czech Republic 2-3 Spain (aet)
Spain had put four goals apiece past Serbia and Belgium in the group phase and ousted the Republic of Ireland in the semis, yet they were made to fight all the way in the final. The Czechs, in their first decider, twice led through Ladislav Krejčí and, in extra time, substitute Patrik Lácha, but Jon Aurtenetxe (85) and Paco Alcácer (108) replied on each occasion. Alcácer then finally settled a gripping contest with five minutes left, and Spain had their fifth crown.
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