Sweden have clinched their first ever European Under-21 Championship title, denying Portugal thanks to a 4-3 penalties triumph after drawing 0-0 in Prague on Tuesday.
Despite finding themselves under pressure for long spells in the match, Hakan Ericsson’s side held firm at the back for 120 minutes and ultimately prevailed in the shootout, as goalkeeper Patrick Carlgren saved from Ricardo Esgaio and then William Carvalho to make history.
Before such heartbreak, Carvalho had impressed throughout the tournament in midfield for Portugal and, while he was very much on top again, Sweden’s work ethic saw their opponents struggle to make the most of their superiority.
Sergio Oliveira went closest for Portugal as he struck the crossbar early on, but Sweden prevented any other narrow escapes until the second half, when Carvalho and his comrades once again began to stamp their authority on proceedings.
The highlight of Portugal’s passage to the final was undoubtedly the 5-0 thrashing of pre-tournament favourites Germany in the semi-final, though Sweden’s setup and harassing ensured a repeat performance was not possible, forcing extra-time.
And Sweden, who barely scraped through qualifying in nail-biting fashion against France ultimately had fate on their side, as Carlgren kept out two penalties to give Sweden the title and simultaneously deny Portugal their first success in the competition.
Following their 5-0 demolition of Germany in the semis, it came as little surprise to see Portugal take full control of proceedings early on and their intense start almost paid dividends just seven minutes in.
Carvalho won a free-kick after being clipped 25 yards from goal and Oliveira’s whipped right-footed effort crashed back off the crossbar.
Although Joao Mario saw a presentable chance blasted over seven minutes later, Sweden weathered the storm well and eventually forced Portugal goalkeeper Jose Sa into action with just under half an hour played – Oscar Lewicki trying his luck from distance.
Jorge’s men continued to see more of the ball, though Sweden generally restricted them to efforts from distance and Portugal went into the break somewhat frustrated.
Portugal began the second period with a renewed urgency, though Sweden were alert enough to sense a chance of their own on the break in the 52nd minute – Guidetti slicing his half-volley just over following Isaac Kiese Thelin’s fine knock-down.
The introduction of Toze and Iuri Medeiros around the hour mark reinvigorated Portugal in attack, with the former testing Carlgren with a powerful drive, before the latter sent a curling effort just off target.
As Sa thwarted Guidetti from point-blank range with four minutes left, the game ultimately passed into extra-time, but the 30 minutes drew no goals and penalties were required.
Calgren produced fine stops to deny Esgaio and then Carvalho, bailing out Abdullah Khalili for his miss and clinching a famous victory for Ericsson’s side.