The Prague night sky filled with Swedish exultation once goalkeeper Patrik Carlgren saved William Carvalho’s penalty, the 10th of Tuesday night’s shoot-out. U21 Championship glory is Sweden’s first ever junior tournament win, and one achieved against heavy odds.
Portugal’s tear-soaked misery will take a while to abate since the best team in the Czech Republic blew it. Instead, the team with the best organisation and highest level of collective endeavour celebrated becoming continental champions. Sweden defended from the front, where the muscle of John Guidetti unsettled the calm that Portugal’s defenders had enjoyed in their four previous matches. Captain Oscar Hiljemark in midfield and Alexander Milosevic in defence formed an indomitable spine.
The losers might feel better when they consider their nation’s famed “golden generation,” that of Luis Figo and Rui Costa, lost in 1994’s final. Yet it’s a small consolation for a country that places great importance on developing young talent and has such pride in its representative team.
Portugal’s disappointment derived from familiar roots. Much like at the senior level, they suffered from having no true centre-forward. Ricardo Perreira and Ivan Cavaleiro are wingers converted into strikers. First-half domination did not deliver goals and Sweden dug in for a goalless draw, extra time and penalties.
[youtube width=”600″ height=”344″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXe3yU557kw[/youtube]