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Portugal battle to incredible 4-3 victory over Italy to lift the Under-19 European Championship for the first time ever

Portugal battle to incredible 4-3 victory over Italy to lift the Under-19 European Championship for the first time ever

Portugal and Italy played out an enthralling U19 European Championship final, with Portugal emerging as the eventual champions after a simply stunning match of football that went all the way to extra time.

Portugal led Italy 2-0 with under 20 minutes of football to go, but after a superb double for the Italians in the space of just 60 seconds, extra time was required to separate the sides, with three more goals coming in the additional 30 minutes.

How it unfolded:

Portugal, who were chasing the rare feat of winning both the U17 and U19 European Championship with the same generation of players, started the game very brightly indeed, with Benfica's João Filipe, who was undoubtedly the star of the whole tournament, crashing a very decent shot just wide of the far post in the opening minute.

With João Filipe and Ruben Vinagre tormenting the Italian defence down the left side throughout the first half, Portugal were very much the dominant side early on in the game, putting in a fair few crosses and having a couple of shots from distance in the opening 25 minutes.

Indeed, the whole team looked very calm and composed in possession, with quality evident throughout the team, and were not afraid to play out from the back, each player seemingly performing at a level well beyond their relative youth would immediately suggest.

And it was David Carmo, one of Portugal's centrebacks, that had the shot of the first half, striking the ball perfectly from well outside the opposition box, keeping it low and arrowing it towards the Italian goal, forcing a very smart stop from the Italian keeper.

But Italy, who had already beaten Portugal 3-2 in the group stage, did have a few chances of their own to test Portugal's defence, with a long-range effort forcing Arsenal's Virginia into a very smart fingertip save just shy of the half hour mark.

A chipped header that was just lifted over the crossbar in the 32nd minute also showed that Italy were very much in this game and certainly a good match for Portugal.

Virginia, who was filling in for the injured Diogo Costa in between the sticks, was then forced into another save from a long-range free-kick on 41 minutes, punching the ball out of the danger area and into touch.

Ultimately however, it looked increasingly likely we would be heading for a goalless draw at half time, with little to split the sides as we approached stoppage time.

However, after Braga's hot prospect Francisco Trincão squeezed the ball to João Filipe, the Benfica boy showed his immeasurable class and technique as he chested the ball down and struck the ball on the volley, all while under pressure from the Italian defenders, and squeezed the ball past the opposition goalkeeper.

That proved to be the last of the action in the first half, and Portugal went into the break with a 1-0 lead. They knew they were just 45 minutes from European glory and, perhaps even more importantly, looked a fantastic team, a wonderful sign to show that the future of Portuguese football is very bright indeed.

Italy came out very strongly in the second half, with a curling shot that bent just passed the post, to the relief of the diving Virginia.

Trincão, however, did have a couple of opportunities to double Portugal's lead in the space of a minute, first unable to keep his powerful shot down as it sailed over the bar in the 57th minute, before then unleashing a strike just wide of the left post 60 seconds later.

With the game fairly uneventful up to the 70 minute mark, it suddenly burst into life, with Trincão doubling Portugal's advantage with just over 15 minutes of the game to go, getting on the end of a rebounded João Filipe shot, sparking jubilation from the Portugal fans who felt that surely wrapped up the match.

However, the two goal lead lasted barely three minutes with Italy scoring a beautiful goal in the 75th, with the Italians attacking in numbers and stringing together a few sick passes to work the ball into the goal.

And just like London buses, just under 60 seconds later, the unthinkable happened, when Italy drilled in a low, powerful shot which beat the diving Virginia to put the game back on level terms.

 A breathtaking double for the Italians meant the game was too close to call and, having seen Portugal in cruise control, it was a devastating disappointment to give up a two-goal lead so suddenly.

Italy undoubtedly dominated the first half of extra time, having a few very good opportunities to take the lead for the first time in the match, but for all of Italy's early dominance, it was Portugal who took the lead in extra time, with Benfica's João Filipe yet again the man to do the business for Portugal, striking a beautiful, curling right-footed shot into the back of the net, confirming what we all already knew; this boy is truly destined for greatness.

Portugal went into the change-over with their precarious 3-2 lead, knowing that, with 15 minutes still remaining, this job was far from over.

And that certainly proved to be the case, with Italy equalising just two minutes after the restart after a wonderful cross was met by the head of Scamacca. 3-3. A suitably impressive score for an excellent football match. And things were still not over.

Indeed, Portugal responded in the perfect way, getting the ball upfield and, within 100 seconds, restored their lead, with Pedro Correia showing incredible composure to place his shot into the bottom right corner.

With the game at 4-3 and still with 10 minutes still to play, Portugal fans around the world could hardly watch, having seen their side throw away their lead on two separate occasions already in this final.

However, there would be no further comeback from the resilient Italians, who more than played their role in this match, and Portugal emerged as the victors of the U19 European Championship for the first time in the nation's entire prestigious history.

To add to that, both João Filipe and Fransisco Trincão were awarded the golden boot together, finishing as joint top scorers in the tournament as a new Golden Generation in Portuguese football was well and truly introduced to the rest of the world. A glorious day for the football-mad country - and, hopefully, just the beginning for this incredible group of players.

João Filipe - remember the name: Five Portuguese players at the U19 European Championship that proved they are destined for greatness

João Filipe - remember the name: Five Portuguese players at the U19 European Championship that proved they are destined for greatness

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