They were the favourites heading into Friday’s Semi-Final action, and so it transpired. Monday’s European Under-17 Championship Final will be contested by Germany and Holland after they both won their last four outings.
Holland were the first to seal their place, with a morning kick-off against Switzerland, a surprise name in this round. A tight opening saw the Dutch take advantage midway through the first half through Shabir Isoufi, but the Swiss bounced back and forced two good saves from goalkeeper Patrick ter Mate. Against the run of play Holland nabbed a crucial, and fortunate, second goal in stoppage time through Luc Castaignos for his second of the tournament.
Not deterred, Dany Ryser’s Swiss poured out of the changing rooms energised for the second half and looked a threat on multiple occasions. A tactical switch saw left-back Janick Kamber push on into midfield, and it soon paid dividends, taking a pass from Granit Xhaka and keeping his composure to round ter Mate and reduce the arrears, giving them real hope of forcing extra time.
They carried on pressing, which left chances for the two Dutch goalscorers to put the game to bed, but they weren’t taken, and as the game became somewhat niggly, especially around Kofi Nimeley, Albert Stuivenberg’s team began to get nervous. Swiss attempts became somewhat desperate but deep into stoppage time Roman Buess found himself bearing down on goal with the chance they’d been waiting for. His left-footed technique was less than stellar but ter Mate was beaten – but the crossbar stood firm as the ball hit the frame and bounced to safety, seeing the Dutch into the Final with their hearts in their mouths.
Fast forward to the late afternoon, and a busy crowd to see if the hosts and 100% Germans could overcome a battling Italian squad perhaps short on match-winners but not on effort. Christoph Buchtmann returned from injury and forwards Mario Gotze and Kevin Scheidhauer after a rest to give Germany their poweful front-line back, and they linked up well early to worry goalkeeper Mattia Perin.
Undeterred, the Azzurri refused to let the talented German midfield settle and striker Giacomo Beretta had chances of his own in an even first half. It was the toughest match the hosts had faced in the tournament and Pasquale Salerno’s team continued that way into the second half, forcing the issue and giving Marco Pezzaiuoli something to think about.
Think he did, and with ten minutes to go he pulled a masterstroke. He switched Buchtmann to the right, allowing him to cut inside, and he did, forcing Perin to parry his effort. The ball rebounded into the box and after a scramble, captain Reinhold Yabo prodded the ball over the line. It broke Italian spirits and as they threw more forwards on, they left spaces to explot, and the hosts confirmed their place in Monday’s showpiece game with two minutes left. Right-back Bienvenue Basana-Mazala played a lovely interchange with Gotze, and stroked into an empty net to set celebrations into full swing.
Monday’s Final kicks off at 11am CET in Magdeburg and is live on Eurosport and UEFA.com.