The Netherlands are once again UEFA Under-17 European champions after they cruised past Italy with a convincing 4-2 victory on Sunday. It’s their fourth European U-17 title since the championship started in 2002.
Peter van der Veen’s men dominated the first half at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin with their powerful attacking game. The young men in orange combined technical brilliance with confidence in possession, creating four times as many chances as their opponents before the break.
After 20 minutes, Ajax striker Sontje Hansen put the Netherlands in front by tapping in a rebound from the Italian goalkeeper. Seventeen minutes later, Feyenoord goal-getter Naoufal Bannis netted from inside the box after Liverpool defender Ki-Jana Hoever hit the post from a curved free kick. Just before the half-time whistle, Chelsea defender Ian Maatsen delivered a powerful low strike into the left corner to give the Netherlands a comfortable 3-0 lead.
After the break, a dangerous blend of nonchalance and complacency among the Dutch allowed Italy to stage a comeback, meaning more work for the Dutch defenders and goalkeeper Calvin Raatsie in particular. With their physical game, the Azzuri quickly created a flurry of chances, resulting in a wonderful goal from Lorenzo Colombo just a few minutes after coming on as a substitute.
In the 70th minute, however, a deflected shot from another substitute, 15-year-old Ajax playmaker Naci Ünüvar, once again gave the Dutch a three-goal lead. The goal took the steam out of Italy, who managed to score a second consolation goal in the dying minutes, when Colombo punished Raatsie for a poor goal-kick with a superb strike from outside the box.
It’s the second consecutive European Under-17 title for the Netherlands and a clear sign that Dutch football is getting back on track.
The Netherlands are also making their presence felt in women’s football, where the Under-17s faced Germany in the final of the UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship on Friday. The defeat on penalties came as a great disappointment to the young Orange Lionesses, who put up an outstanding collective performance during the tournament, beating the previous holders and favourites Spain 3-1 in the semi-final.