After over 20 years since reaching its last finals Sweden has won its first Men’s U21 Football Championships. The tournament doubled as an Olympic qualifier where the semi-finalists all qualify to the Olympics, the exception was England since they were not allowed to qualify Great Britain to the Olympics. Had that happened a 5th place match would have been held. The 8 team tournament was held in the Czech Republics from June 17th to June 30th 2015.
In group A going into the final match all teams were still alive, but it was Germany who was in the best shape as they only needed a tie to reach the semifinals. Germany was able to hold onto the tie against the Czech Republic with a score of 1-1. This effectively killed Serbia’s chances though it ultimately didn’t matter as Denmark won the match 2-0 winning the group and reaching the semifinals.
Group B was also in a similar scenario with Portugal having the luxury of only needing a tie to advance. In the final match Italy was able to take control of the match by scoring 2 goals in 2 minutes and another one at the 72nd minute. While England scored late into stoppage Italy did everything it could, all they had to do was hope the other match did not end in a tie.
It looked like Italy was about to get its wish when Portugal’s Gonçalo Paciência scored in the 82nd minute. However with one minute before the 90 Sweden answered back with a goal from Simon Tibbling eliminating Italy and sending Sweden to the semifinals.
The semifinals ended up being two large blowouts as Portugal and Sweden defeated Germany and Denmark 5-0 and 4-1 respectively setting up a rematch between the two nations. After a very defensive game where both teams had their chances the title came down to penalty kicks. Both Sweden and Portugal missed a shot going into the final shots. Sweden’s Victor Lindelöf scored their final shot which meant Portugal’s William Carvalho needed to score to send it to sudden death. He however missed giving Sweden the 4-3 penalty kicks win.
The men’s Olympic football tournament is a U23 tournament with three overage players allowed to compete so that could mean players like Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo could compete at the Olympics, but I feel that would be unlikely. The European football season starts at around the time of the Olympics and both Sweden and Portugal are likely to compete at the 2016 Euro Championship which takes place about a month before the Olympics begin.
Quotas by Nations
- Denmark – 1
- Germany – 1
- Portugal – 1
- Sweden – 1
UEFA. Men’s U21 Football Championships. Access on July 1 2015.