The 1997/98 UEFA European Under-16 Championship produced a remarkable result as the Republic of Ireland claimed the trophy for the first time, part of an unprecedented double success as the U18 team also triumphed in their own European finals the same season.
At the 16-team final tournament in Scotland, Ireland faced one of the toughest draws possible as they were paired with four-time winners Spain in Group C. Brian Kerr's side opened their campaign with a goalless draw against the hosts, before defeating Finland 2-0 and overcoming the Spanish by a single goal on the final matchday to claim first position. Spain squeezed through in second place on four points, one more than the Finns, to leave Scotland bringing up the rear with two.
In Group A, Greece also led the way with seven points, two more than Denmark – who also qualified for the quarter-finals unbeaten – with Sweden and Iceland in third and fourth place respectively. Italy and Portugal made relatively serene progress from Group B after playing out a 1-1 draw in the opening round of matches; both went on to defeat Norway and Liechtenstein, who finished third and fourth in the final standings. The fourth section was the tightest of all, with Israel holding off Croatia and Ukraine to win the section with five points, one above both of their rivals. The Croatians pipped Ukraine to the runners-up berth thanks to a 2-0 victory in the game between the two sides, leaving Russia lagging behind in fourth place.
Three of the four quarter-finals were tight affairs, the exception being the meeting of Israel and Portugal in Inverness, Miguel Barros' double helping the Portuguese to a solid 4-1 success. Elsewhere Samuele Dalla Bona got what proved to be the winner in Italy's 2-1 win against Croatia, while Spain came from behind to defeat Greece 2-1 and Ireland overcame the Danes 2-0.
Ireland won their last-four meeting with Portugal by an identical margin thanks to two second-half goals from Shaun Byrne in Motherwell and Spain's hold on the trophy was ended by the Italians, for whom Dalla Bona once again struck the decisive goal in another 2-1 win. The Spanish did have the consolation of a win against Portugal in the third-placed play-off, however, recovering from conceding in the second minute to run out 2-1 victors.
In the final at McDiarmid Park in Perth, Ireland struck first with Keith Foy breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute. Italy responded through Simone Pelanti seven minutes into the second period, but parity proved short-lived as David McMahon restored Ireland's lead five minutes later - a goal that proved sufficient to take the trophy. The four semi-finalists went to South Africa the next February for the UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup, and while Ireland and Italy fell in the group stage, Spain beat Portugal in the semi-finals and then Ghana 2-1 to win the trophy.
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