Sweden claims EURO U-21 title on penalties


Sweden upset the odds to beat Portugal 4-3 on penalties after the final of the UEFA European Under-21 championship ended goalless.

The sides shared a 1-1 draw when they met in the group stage six days ago and there was nothing to separate them once more at Prague's Eden Arena.

Portugal thrashed Germany 5-0 in the semi-finals and began with predictable confidence, Sergio Oliveira hitting the crossbar.

But Rui Jorge watched his team's early verve fade and John Guidetti went close to snatching victory for Sweden within 90 minutes.

Extra-time also failed to produce a winner, leaving AIK goalkeeper Patrik Carlgren to take centre stage.

He sprung to his left and kept out Portugal's third kick from Ricardo Esgaio and, after Sweden midfielder Abdul Khalili paid for an ill-advised staggered run-up, highly touted Sporting midfielder William Carvalho saw his tame attempt thwarted by Carlgren.

Ivan Cavaleiro found joy down the Sweden right as Portugal made an enterprising start and Ricardo Pereira rippled the side-netting from 18 yards in the seventh minute.

Sweden was struggling under the early onslaught and Portugal captain Oliveira came agonisingly close to opening the scoring when he thudded a free-kick against the crossbar.

Issac Kiese Thelin headed into the arms of Jose Sa on a rare Sweden attack before Portugal midfielder Joao Mario lifted over when the ball dropped to him in the box after 14 minutes.

Midway through the half Sweden appeared to have settled and Oscar Lewicki hit a drive at Sa as Portugal's attacking threat subsided.

Its earlier incision returned seven minutes before the interval but Mario's tamely struck shot was blocked by defender Alexander Milosevic.

Sweden was forced into a defensive substitution at half-time, with Joseph Baffo - who missed the semi-final due to a shoulder injury - on for knee-injury victim Filip Helander.

Sweden looked to attack more frequently after the interval but it was vulnerable on the counter after 52 minutes when Bernardo Silva’s dangerous low cross was scrambled behind.

A minute later, Guidetti - who had been starved of service in attack for Sweden - smashed narrowly over on the end of Thelin’s knockdown.

Back came Portugal as Oliveira crashed a 30-yard strike wide - the skipper's last act before making way for Toze.

The new man from Porto forced Carlgren to grasp a viciously dipping strike at the second attempt before fellow substitute Iuri Medeiros arched a shot just wide of the far post after a trademark driving run from Carvalho.

Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori made a timely block when Guidetti twisted and turned to find a yard of space in the penalty area with 10 minutes to play.

Guidetti, whose contract at Manchester City was set to expire hours after the final whistle, was denied smartly by Sa as Sweden finished normal time in the ascendancy.

Hakan Ericson's team took its renewed belief into the additional period - Khalili curling a delicate effort wide to worry an increasingly jaded Portugal, which was briefly roused when substitute Goncalo Paciencia flashed a header past the post.

Paciencia tucked away Portugal's first penalty of the shootout with aplomb but it was its fifth and final effort from Carvalho that was cruelly decisive, as Sweden sealed its maiden crown.

Source Omnisport