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Thiago Shines As Spain Win Euro U21s Again

championsBarcelona’s Thiago Alcantara scored a first-half hat-trick as Spain outclassed Italy to retain the European Under-21 Championship today.

The Spanish captain was left unmarked to head in early on before Ciro Immobile scored a wonderful equaliser from Giulio Donati’s pass.

Thiago restored the lead with a crisp shot and added a third from the spot. In a flat second half, Isco’s penalty sealed the win before Fabio Borini added a late consolation for Italy.

Such is Spain’s dominance in European football that their Under-19s, under-21s and senior teams have all won back-to-back European Championships. And if this group is any indication, Spain will be favored to three-peat at the senior level at Euro 2016. And with 8 members of this Spain squad eligible to play in this tournament in two years, it will take a lot for them not to repeat as Champions then.

The stars of the U21s Euros were Thiago and Malaga midfielder Isco, both who could be playing in the Premier League next season. Isco has bene heavily linked with a move to Manchester City, while Thiago is rumoured to be heading to the red side of Manchester. Both of their stocks rose after this tournament.

Spain dominated from the outset and took an early lead through Alcantara, who headed home an Alvaro Morata cross from close range.

It was an impressive goal but one that was soon cancelled out as Giulio Donati played a wonderfully-weighted ball from the back, which Immobile controlled before dinking over Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.

Spain quickly returned to the attack and goalkeeper Francesco Bardi had to be alert to deny Morata after the Real Madrid striker was put through by Alcantara.

The Inter Milan goalkeeper was again called into action soon after to stop Koke flicking home a Cristian Tello cross.

Italy’s biggest threat was coming on the counter-attack and opposite number De Gea was forced into an important 24th-minute stop to keep the scores level.

Borini played a looping ball over to Alessandro Florenzi, who flicked the ball over Marc Bartra’s head before seeing his volley pushed over by the United goalkeeper.

Spain soon went in front for a second time, though. Koke picked out Alcantara and Bardi was unable to keep out the Barcelona midfielder’s fierce half volley.

They extended their lead further as half-time approached after Tello was brought down by Donati’s trailing leg. Alcantara stepped up to the mark and struck home, completing his hat-trick and putting Spain in the driving seat.

Only a smart Bardi save prevented the 22-year-old grabbing another in the opening minute of the second half, with his low 20-yard strike parried away from danger.

Florenzi struck over as Italy looked to reduce the deficit, but Spain were still on top.

Isco came close under pressure from the Italian defender, but got the goal he craved in the 66th minute.
Vasco Regini brought down Martin Montoya in the box and Isco fired the resulting spot-kick home. It was no less than Spain deserved but they were forced to endure a nervy ending as they let their foot off the gas.

Borini struck a wonderful 20-yard effort past De Gea to reduce the deficit, with Regini firing over shortly afterwards.

The Azzurrini continued to push but there was to be no more goals as Spain were crowned champions again.