Spain won their fifth title at the 2019 Football European U21 Championship. In terms of Olympic qualification, the four semi-finalists qualify their U23 teams with up to three overage players. England is not eligible to qualify to the Olympics and should the nation reach the semi-finals then a fifth-place match will be played to decide the fourth team. The European U21 Championship was held in various cities in Italy and San Marino from June 16th to June 30th 2019.
The format for this competition had three groups of four teams, with the group winners and best performing second place team advancing to the semi-finals. Group A ended with Italy, Poland and Spain tied with six points each. The tiebreaker that decided the placings were head to head goal differential. Spain’s 5-0 victory over Poland during the final match gave Spain a +3 goal differential to win the group over Italy (+1) and Poland (-4). Belgium finished fourth with 0 points.
Group B was topped by Germany whom defeated Denmark 3-1 and Serbia 6-1 before holding Austria to a 1-1 draw to finish with seven points. Denmark’s 3-1 victory over Austria assured it second place with six points while Austria finished third with four points. Serbia finished fourth with 0 points.
Going into the final game for Group C both Romania and France defeated Croatia (4-1 and 1-0 respectively) and England (4-2 and 2-1 respectively) to have six points each. Knowing that a draw would ensure both nations qualify to the Olympics the two teams played a defensive 0-0 draw. Romania won the group due to having a better goal differential. Croatia and England also played to a 3-3 draw with England winning the goal differential battle.
The semi-finals saw Germany score two late goals, one in the 90th minute and a second in stoppage time to win 4-2 against Romania. In the other match, despite scoring the first goal, France had no reply to Spain’s four as they lost 4-1. In the final, a 7th and 69th minute goal by Fabian Ruiz and Dani Olmo gave Spain a 2-0 lead, but Germany pulled within one thanks to an 88th minute goal by Nadiem Amiri. Germany however, were unable to score a second goal, allowing Spain to win the championship via a 2-1 score line.
At the Olympic, Germany will attempt to better its silver medal won in 2016. For Spain they return to the Olympics after missing out in 2016 while for France and Romania this will be their first games in a while with France last appearance being in 1996 and Romania’s last appearance being in 1964. This was the only opportunity for European teams to qualify to the Olympics in men’s football. The next continent to have their qualifier will be Oceania.