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Martin Tyler reflects on a memorable U21 tournament in Israel

Martin Tyler - Martin Tyler Posted 19th June 2013 view comments

It is 5.45 am on June 19 and I am sending my final blog from Israel in the departure lounge at Tel Aviv airport.

Spain reclaimed the Uefa Under-21 trophy nine hours ago and are probably still partying after their 4-2 win over Italy. And they deserve to do so.

Italy are in their hotel around 500 metres away from the Spaniards and might even be hearing the celebrations but the Italians should sleep easily, though. They gave it their best shot against the favourites.

Thiago: Celebrates after captaining Spain to the title

Thiago: Celebrates after captaining Spain to the title

I grabbed about four hours rest in Sky Sports' Jerusalem hotel. It has always been my policy to take the first available option home after covering a tournament, partly for family reasons, partly because I don't want to dilute my memories of the competition by hanging around.

And what great memories I will always have of Israel 2013. The football was good, helped by the standard and history of the qualifying teams. The organisation from a country not used to such staging such international events was commendable, justifying Michel Platini's firm stance

No one could match the talent of Spain, an even better outfit than that which triumphed in Denmark two years earlier.

Spain
Quotes of the week

that this troubled part of the world merited host status.

Troubled but stunning. The mix of the modern beach side cities of Tel Aviv and Netanya and the biblical backdrop of Jerusalem takes your breath

away. All were perfect venues for the Finals, Alan Smith and I took advantage of our one free day to visit the extraordinary phenomenon that is the Dead Sea.

We were like kids on our first holiday!

The weather was consistently sunny and warm but the dry heat and a pleasant drop in the evening temperatures meant that the tempo of the matches never slackened.

Depleted

From the domestic point of view it will now be remembered as the end of Stuart Pearce's tenure in charge of England Under-21s.

No one could have worked harder to try to turn the excellent form shown in qualifying into tournamant success. Four successive qualifications have not been matched by any other nation but that was forgotten as a depleted England lost all three games.

Football is full of ifs and buts and at this level margins are often very slim. At 0-0 in the opening game against Italy the referee awarded a goal, scored by Craig Dawson, only to belatedly change his mind on the say so of the official behind the goal in which the ball was nestling.

As it was, Italy grabbed the only goal and it set them on their way to the Final - but no one could have matched the talent of Spain, an even better outfit than that which triumphed in Denmark two years earlier.

Fantastic

It certainly helped that David De Gea, Martin Montoya and Iker Muniain brought that 2011 experience into this tournament and of course the blossoming talent that is Thiago. He had scored with a fanatstic free-kick in the previous Final but surpassed that with his first half hat-trick in Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium.

Patrick Davidson and I spent half an hour in his company before the semi-final and his personal charm matches his remarkable skills. He has been known as the son of a World Cup winner, Mazinho from the Brazil success of 1994. Now it looks as though it is Mazinho who will be introduced as Thiago's Dad!

His fluent English comes from a school in Vigo in Spain but he was born in Italy when Mazinho's playing career took him there. That was tough for Italians to take when he was rattling in the goals against them in the Final.

Thiago left Italy when he was four but his only other allegiances apart from Spain are to Brazil and his family background.

He chose to stay with Spain because of his upbringing in the country and loyalty to the fact that they gave him an early chance in international football.

No captain has deserved more to hold up a trophy but he did take a risk in overruling pre-Final instructions to take the penalty which gave him his third goal. Isco, the designated taker, got his chance from the spot in the second half. Neither looked like failing.

Nor, in yet another international tournament, did Spain.

Comments (2)

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Brad Dobbs (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...

Couldnt agree more. We could have taken that World Cup if all of our players were there - Thats how you build for future success. Pearce was wronged.

Posted 05:58 26th June 2013

Brian Trent (Newcastle United fan) says...

I can understand to a degree why Pearce is not having his contract renewed but the F A did not help by allowing Hodgson to take several of his best player on the jaunt to Brazil. As for Bernsteins remarks regarding the best players should always be with the first completely is not acceptable when the U21s had a chance of winning the competition,Spain were the best team there but it must be remembered that our U21s had not lost for 9matches we must must surely send the best players to these competitions or it is a pointless operation to play in these competitions.

Posted 12:48 19th June 2013

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