UEFA European Under-21 Championship

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UEFA European Under-21 Championship
Cup of the UEFA Under 21 Championship.jpg
Winners Cup of the UEFA Under 21 Championship
Founded 1978
Region Europe (UEFA)
Number of teams 53 (qualifiers)
8 (finals)
Current champions  Spain (4th title)
Most successful team(s)  Italy (5 titles)
2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship

The UEFA European Under-21 Championship (also known as the UEFA Euro U-21s) is a football competition organised by the sport's European governing body, UEFA. It is held every two years. The competition has existed in its current form since 1978. It was preceded by the Under 23 Challenge Cup which ran from 1967 to 1970. A true Under 23 championship was then formed, starting in 1972.

The age limit was reduced to 21 for the 1978 championship and it has remained so since. To be eligible for the campaign ending in 2011, players need to be born in or after 1988. Many can be actually 23 years old by the time the finals tournament takes place; however, when the qualification process began (late 2009) all players would have been 21 or under.

Under-21 matches are typically played on the day before senior internationals and where possible, the same qualifying groups and fixtures were played out. This was not true for the shortened 2006-2007 Championship.

This tournament has been considered a stepping stone toward the senior team. Players such as Mesut Özil, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Luís Figo, Petr Čech, 2010 World Cup winner Iker Casillas, 2006 World Cup winners Francesco Totti, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluigi Buffon, Alberto Gilardino and Andrea Pirlo, and Euro 2004 winner Georgios Karagounis began their international careers in the youth teams.

Spain are the reigning champions, defeating Italy in the 2013 final, 4–2. The finals of the 2013 competition were hosted by Israel.

Competition structure[edit]

Up to and including the 1992 competition, all entrants were divided into eight qualification groups, the eight winners of which formed the quarter-finals lineup. The remaining fixtures were played out on a two-legged, home and away basis to determine the eventual winner.

For the 1994 competition, one of the semi-finalists, France, was chosen as a host for the (single-legged) semi-finals, 3rd place playoff and final. Similarly, Spain was chosen to host the last four matches in 1996.

For 1998, nine qualification groups were used, as participation had reached 46, nearly double the 24 entrants in 1976. The top seven group winners qualified automatically for the finals, whilst the eighth- and ninth-best qualifiers, Greece and England, played-off for the final spot. The remaining matches, from the quarter-finals onward, were held in Romania, one of the eight qualifiers.

The 2000 competition also had nine groups, but the nine winners and seven runners-up went into a two-legged playoff to decide the eight qualifiers. From those, Slovakia was chosen as host. For the first time, the familiar finals group stage was employed, with the two winners contesting a final, and two runners-up contesting the 3rd-place playoff. The structure in 2002 was identical, except for the introduction of a semi-finals round after the finals group stage. Switzerland hosted the 2002 finals.

In 2004, ten qualification groups were used, with the group winners and six best runners-up going into the playoff. Germany was host that year. For 2006, the top two teams of eight large qualification groups provided the 16 teams for the playoffs, held in November 2005. Portugal hosted the finals.

Then followed the switch to odd years. The change was made because the senior teams of many nations often chose to promote players from their under-21s team as their own qualification campaign intensified. Staggering the tournaments allowed players more time to develop in the under-21 team rather than get promoted too early and end up becoming reserves for the seniors.

The 2007 competition actually began before the 2006 finals, with a qualification round to eliminate eight of the lowest-ranked nations. For the first time, the host (Netherlands) was chosen ahead of the qualification section. As hosts, Netherlands qualified automatically. Coincidentally, the Dutch team had won the 2006 competition - the holders would normally have gone through the qualification stage. The other nations were all drawn into fourteen three-team groups. The 14 group winners were paired in double-leg play-off to decide the seven qualifiers alongside the hosts.

The tournament will revert to even years in 2016.

The 2015 finals will be the last eight-team finals as it will be expanded to twelve teams starting from 2017.[1]

Predecessor tournaments[edit]

Under-23 Challenge Cup winners[edit]

This was competed for on a basis similar to a boxing title belt. The holders played a randomly[clarification needed] chosen opponent for the championship. This format was soon dropped in favour of one more familiar to the sport of football.

Date Winners Runners-up Venue
June 1967  Bulgaria  East Germany Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
September 1967  Bulgaria  Finland Burgas, Bulgaria
November 1967  Bulgaria  Czechoslovakia Pleven, Bulgaria
April 1968  Bulgaria  Netherlands Sofia, Bulgaria
October 1968  Yugoslavia  Bulgaria Rousse, Bulgaria
June 1969  Yugoslavia  Spain Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
November 1969  Yugoslavia  Sweden Zrenjanin, Yugoslavia
March 1970  Yugoslavia  Greece Athens, Greece

Under-23 champions[edit]

Held only three times before it was relabelled by UEFA.

Year Host Winner Score Runner-up
1972 N/A
Czechoslovakia
2–2 / 3–1
5–3 on aggregate

Soviet Union
1974 N/A
Hungary
2–3 / 4–0
6–3 on aggregate

East Germany
1976 N/A
Soviet Union
1–1 / 2–1
3–2 on aggregate

Hungary

Results[edit]

Year Host Winner Score Runner-up
1978 N/A
Yugoslavia
1–0 / 4–4
5–4 on aggregate

East Germany
1980 N/A
Soviet Union
0–0 / 1–0
1–0 on aggregate

East Germany
1982 N/A
England
3–1 / 2–3
5–4 on aggregate

West Germany
1984 N/A
England
1–0 / 2–0
3–0 on aggregate

Spain
1986 N/A
Spain
1–2 / 2–1
3–3 on aggregate, (3–0) ps

Italy
1988 N/A
France
0–0 / 3–0
3–0 on aggregate

Greece
1990 N/A
Soviet Union
4–2 / 3–1
7–3 on aggregate

Yugoslavia
1992 N/A
Italy
2–0 / 0–1
2–1 on aggregate

Sweden
1994  France
Italy
1–0
aet

Portugal
1996  Spain
Italy
1–1
(4–2) ps

Spain
1998  Romania
Spain
1–0
Greece
2000  Slovakia
Italy
2–1
Czech Republic
2002   Switzerland
Czech Republic
0–0
(3–1) ps

France
2004  Germany
Italy
3–0
Serbia and Montenegro
2006  Portugal
Netherlands
3–0
Ukraine
2007  Netherlands
Netherlands
4–1
Serbia
2009  Sweden
Germany
4–0
England
2011  Denmark
Spain
2–0
Switzerland
2013  Israel
Spain
4–2
Italy
2015  Czech Republic

Winners and runners-up[edit]

Team Titles Runners-up
 Italy 5 (1992, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2004) 2 (1986, 2013)
 Spain 4 (1986, 1998, 2011, 2013) 2 (1984, 1996)
 England 2 (1982, 1984) 1 (2009)
 Soviet Union 2 (1980, 1990)
 Netherlands 2 (2006, 2007)
 Serbia 1 1 (1978) 3 (1990, 2004, 2007)
 France 1 (1988) 1 (2002)
 Czech Republic 1 (2002) 1 (2000)
 Germany 1 (2009) 1 (1982)
 East Germany 2 (1978, 1980)
 Greece 2 (1988, 1998)
 Sweden 1 (1992)
 Portugal 1 (1994)
 Ukraine 1 (2006)
  Switzerland 1 (2011)

Under-21 Golden Player[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "U21 final tournament expanding to 12 teams". UEFA.com. 24 January 2014.