UEFA president Michel Platini was full of praise for the European Under-21 Championship that Israel hosted − and rightly so. Without any hint of sarcasm, I can honestly say that Israel won. Tuesday night’s final was the perfect way to end the championship, from the size of the crowd, the number of goals and, most importantly, the level of soccer on display.
Once again, we got to see the next generation of Spanish soccer stars in action. Once again, these young guns led Spain to the European crown, and they will be the players who lead the senior team in years to come.
According to the Catalonian newspaper Sport, the 10 most valuable members of the Spanish under-21 team are worth, in total, 140 million euros. That’s a conservative estimate. But it just goes to show the depth of talent available to the coaches of the reigning European and world champion.
This time, Thiago was the executioner, scoring the first ever hat-trick in an under-21 final. But what matters was the team performance. Even when Spain conceded its first goal in this tournament, it never panicked. In the final of the 2012 European Championships, Spain’s senior team beat Italy 4-0. Like their older countrymen, the Spanish under-21s played their usual game − and it was just too much for Italy to handle.