By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Almost one year ago, the Spanish national team squared off against Italy for a chance to repeat as European champions.
On Tuesday, Spain’s future stars repeated their senior team’s four-goal performance over the Italians and once again held up a continental trophy.
A first half hat trick from Barcelona midfielder and team captain Thiago led the way for Spain in a 4-2 UEFA Under-21 Final victory at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. A penalty conversion from Isco midway through the second half sealed the win for Spain, who also won the 2011 title in Denmark.
Although they had a similar grip on possession and chances on goal, the Spain U-21s were not able to keep a clean sheet against an Italy side that would not fold early. Minutes after Thiago scored his first goal on a free header, Genoa man Ciro Immobile scored the first goal for a Spanish opponent in this tournament by chipping Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea.
Italy’s best chances came off of long over-the-top balls, and the five-time U-21 champions came close to a shock lead on an Alessandro Florenzi effort.
But shortly after De Gea’s save on Florenzi, Spain took over the match. Thiago struck a shot that was too hot for Francesco Bardi to handle in the 31st minute, and he converted a controversial penalty eight minutes later for the hat trick.
Spain returned to the penalty spot again in the 66th minute with Isco converting. Liverpool man Fabio Borini pulled one back for the Italians in the 80th minute, but it was too little, too late for the runners-up.
Although he was not able to make it five goals in five matches on Tuesday, Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata was awarded the tournament’s Golden Boot award. Isco and Thiago joined Morata as the only players to score more than two goals in this year’s competition.
What did you make of this result? Did you expect Spain to win by multiple goals? Did you expect Italy to score any goals after Spain’s four straight clean sheets? Which players stood out to you in this tournament?
Share your thoughts below.