Netherlands retained their Under-17 European Championships title as they beat Italy 4-2 in the final in Dublin on Sunday.
Almost twelve months to the day since the sides met in the final of the 2018 edition in England, the Netherlands made it back-to-back successes after racing into a three-goal first-half lead that Italy never looked likely to recover from.
Sontje Hansen of Ajax opened the scoring for the Dutch, before a free-kick from Liverpool’s Ki-Jana Hoever came back off the post to be finished by Naoufal Bannis on the rebound.
Chelsea’s Ian Maatsen scored the Netherlands’ third before the break, but a fine strike from Italy’s Lorenzo Colombo cut the arrears.
Naci Unuvar became the first 15-year-old to score in an Under-17 European Championship final to seal the victory, before Colombo scored his and his team’s second late on to earn Italy a consolation.
Netherlands announced themselves as serious contenders to retain their title with a sterling 5-2 group-stage win against 2017 Under-17 World Cup winners England, a result that all but eliminated the Three Lions.
The Oranje were defeated by France in their final group game, though, having already secured their place in the quarter-final.
The team, managed by Kees Van Wonderen, will now turn their attentions to the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil in October, having secured their place as one of the five European qualifiers.
The European finals in Ireland doubled up as the qualifying tournament for Brazil, and the Dutch will be joined at the world championships by France and Spain, who were beaten semi-finalists, runners-up Italy and the winners of a losing quarter-finalists play-off, Hungary.
Steve Cooper’s England crashed out in the group stage after failing to recover from their thrashing by the eventual champions.
Sam Greenwood’s goal looked to have gotten the Three Lions off to a winning start against France in their opening game, before a late leveller denied them all three points.
Cooper’s team won their final game against Sweden 3-1, with Wigan’s Joe Gelhardt amongst the scorers, but France’s win against the Dutch condemned the world champions to third place in the group.