The first 16-team UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals for 13 years proved to be France's tournament as they impressively swept all before them in Bulgaria.
Not since a squad containing Karim Benzema, Kevin Constant, Hatem Benarfa, Jérémy Menez and Samir Nasri prevailed in 2004 had Les Petits Bleus experienced U17 success. That emphatically changed in Burgas, where Jean-Claude Giuntini's side overcame Germany, themselves in their fourth final, 4-1 to secure France's second title at this level. Like he had been throughout the competition, Odsonne Edouard was France's inspiration, scoring the first hat-trick in a U17 decider.
Giuntini's team had delivered a statement of intent on matchday one, putting five without reply past Group C opponents Scotland. Edouard added the third goal – the first of eight he managed in Bulgaria, a finals record – as France raced into a 4-0 lead after 35 minutes. Germany got their Group B campaign up and running with a 2-0 triumph against Belgium, whose first-half profligacy proved costly.
The second biggest crowd of the tournament turned up for the hosts' Group A opener. The majority of the 10,640 fans inside Stara Zagora's Beroe Stadium, a record for an U17 match other than a final, went home disappointed, though, as Croatia ran out 2-0 victors. Holders England edged out Italy 1-0 in Group D.
Germany and France's next successes were more slender, 1-0 against Slovenia and Russia respectively. Belgium revived their hopes by seeing off the Czech Republic 3-0 in Sozopol – a game which turned on Jens Teunckens' penalty save with the score 1-0. Earlier in the day at the same venue, Croatia became the first team to qualify for the last eight after beating Austria 1-0.
France and Germany made it a perfect group stage of maximum points and no goals conceded. The former overcame Greece, whose loss opened the door for Russia, 2-0 winners against Scotland, to take the runners-up spot in Group C. Captain Felix Passlack struck twice in a 4-0 stroll as Germany, requiring a point to progress, made short work of the Czechs.
The first two quarter-finals went to spot kicks, Belgium eliminating Croatia and Germany ousting Spain. Russia rode their luck the following day when ending England's reign, Aleksei Tataev heading the only goal four minutes after Aleksandr Maksimenko saved Nathan Holland's penalty, while Edouard scored a delightful back-heeled double in France's 3-0 defeat of Italy.
The last-four fixtures were also close affairs. France finally conceded their first goal, a header from Belgium's Rubin Seigers, but survived a shoot-out in which seven of the ten spot kicks were either missed or saved. Luca Zidane, son of Zinédine, stopped three of them, with Edouard converting the winning penalty. Janni Serra's 68th-minute header against Russia smoothed Germany's passage to the final on the back of a fifth straight clean sheet.
And so to the denouement, where Edouard stole the show in front of over 13,000 at Lazur Stadium, the most ever to watch an U17 match not involving the host nation. Germany's previously impenetrable defence had no answer to the forward's pace, power and finishing. Giuntini said the Paris Saint-Germain player can "afford to have very big ambitions".
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