Our EURO U17 Championship Win
On Monday 19th September 2016 I got my first international call-up. U17 coach, Santiago Denia Sánchez debuted me against Northern Ireland in a UEFA European U17 Qualifier that we won 4-0.
Following that night in Mourneview Park, we went on a 5-1 run, losing only once to Greece one goal to nil in March 2017. Our good form put us into the 2017 UEFA European U17 Championship as a top seed. The scene was set.
Pitted against Turkey, Croatia and Italy, we worked through the group stage with relative ease. Beating the Turks 3-2 and the Italians 3-1 meant we had secured qualification. The squad was rotated, and we were only able to scrape a 1-1 draw against the Croatians. But it didn’t matter, we finished top of our group, and were up against France in the knockout stages.
We actually went a goal down against the French, thanks to Amine Gouiri’s 9th minute strike through our goalkeeper’s legs. It didn’t take us long to equalise though. Mateu Morey’s incredible solo goal came first, before Abel Ruiz scored a second and set up another. 3-1 final result. Shaky start, but into the semis we go.
The Germans. Packed full of talent. I could feel the change of atmosphere in the changing room before the game. It was noticeably more tense. The game started slowly. On the 13 minute mark, I received a pass from Antonio Blanco to the right wing. I dropped my shoulder and beat the defender before zipping in a cross which took a dangerous deflection, but nothing came of it. Ten minutes later, I found myself in another great position in front of goal, and set up Abel Ruiz for the shot. Just wide. It was a frustrating game for us, but we made good progress. It went on like that for a while. They hit the post, so did we – of a Ruiz penalty – but the game finished 0-0. The game went into penalties, and fortunately, the Germans missed two, making it 4-2.
On 19th May 2017, we were scheduled to play England. They were playing brilliantly, with a 100% win record in the tournament so far. We started, again, from behind, after a slotted strike from the British midfielder Callum Hudson-Odoi put them ahead. But wow. Did we return fire! Ruiz set up Morey for a roof-of-the-net rocketblaster. Phil Foden made it 2-1, and with no time left on the clock, Nacho Díaz took us into the penalty shootout. The celebrations were incredible!! I think we were so high after getting the last minute goal, that we went into the shootout feeling invincible. The penalties finished 4-1, and we lifted the 2017 UEFA European U17 Championship trophy, full of pride.