Spain's under-17s lifted the Under-17 European Championships for a record third time, beating Steve Cooper's England side in dramatic fashion, winning on penalties having equalised in the sixth minute of added time.
It was heartbreaking for the Young Lions despite a fantastic showing and a superb tournament. The England DNA had been on full show in Croatia and Cooper's side were 30 seconds away from lifting a third title in a decade.
Yet Nacho Diaz headed home in the 86th minute to force the game to penalties and a terrible spot kick from Joel Latibeaudiere allowed Spain the chance to net twice-in-a-row to secure victory.
England goalkeeper Josef Bursik had kept Spain out for so long in the second half, with a number of saves that appeared to be matchwinners. Spain, as they did in the semi-final against Germany, triumphed on penalties, though. This is a Spanish side with the typical attributes of their nation; tactically intelligent, technically superb, but in this game they showed their sheer persistence, coming from behind twice.
Comfortable in possession, quick in transition, organised, patient in attack, Steve Cooper's England verify the success of the England DNA program. This country doesn't have technically skilful players? Watch this set of young Englishman, and you will likely change your mind. They lost on penalties, but were brilliant, winning 11 consecutive games before the final.
Hudson-Odoi gives England deserved lead
Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi gave England a deserved lead after 18 minutes with a goal he has so often reproduced. Much like his goal in the FA Youth Cup final and in the U17 Euro semi-final, Hudson-Odoi received the ball on the edge of the box, this time from Jadon Sancho, forced the defender to retreat with quick feet before unleashing a powerful shot. It initially looked to be a special strike, but in fact took a vital deflection.
Spain recovered excellently. A fantastic side with a similar mindset and playing style to England, they created a fantastic match. Without the concentration of England goalkeeper Josef Bursik, Spain could well have been playing out the game comfortably in the final minutes.
The battle between Man City starlet Sancho and Spain full-back Mateu Morey was a special one. Morey can attack, as being a full-back for Spain requires. And it was him who equalised for Santi Denia's side just before half-time, finishing off a superb team move.
Spain's side showed incredible awareness on the ball to finally breach the England defence. Without looking at their teammates, they found them. Captain Abel Ruiz ran onto the end of a fantastic through ball from Moha, striding past the England defence. He cut it back with only a small glance over his shoulder into the space just behind the penalty area, and Morey finished emphatically for his third of the tournament.
England hadn't been tested properly before this game, generally dominating their previous fixtures in the tournament. In fact, Cooper's youngsters had won their last 10 games. Spain presented a real challenge, but England's much-praised attack coped well.
Hudson-Odoi continued to threat from the edge of the area, forcing Fernández into a good diving save just after the break. It was Phil Foden who grabbed what appeared to be the winner, though. With Spain not recovering well from a clearance, not returning to their shape, Foden capitalised. He had a quick glance up to see the goalkeeper just out of position before powering it from 25 yards out right into the corner and past a scrambling Fernández.
Diaz header forces game to penalties
Foden's strike didn't end the game; certainly not. Bursik had to be in fine form, as did England's defenders. He first denied Sergio Gómez after fantastic footwork and pace from Moha. Later he stopped the captain Ruiz, making himself big. It looked like Bursik had made the final match-winning save came in added time, denying Juan Miranda with a strong left hand. But in the sixth minute of added time after Cooper had looked to waste time by bringing off Jadon Sancho, Bursik came off his line at a corner and was beaten by a header from Diaz to send the final to penalties using the new ABBA format.
Manchester United's Aidan Barlow scored the first penalty for England, but Spain made no mistake with their two consecutive chances. England, though, did. Rhian Brewster hit the post with so much power it looked like it would go in off the other post. It didn't. The pressure for Joel Latibeaudiere was too much, and he skied it way over the crossbar. Spain scored their following two and celebrated, somewhat shocked after England had been playing out for the victory for the final 20 minutes.