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Penalty finish in Basel

The Czech players get their hands on the silverware in Basel

(Keystone)

A penalty shootout victory for the Czech Republic has brought down the curtain on the European under-21 football championships in Switzerland.

The Czechs saw off the hot favourites of France in a 3-1 penalty win after 120 minutes of regular and extra time had failed to produce a goal.

Tuesday's final in Basel saw the Czechs clinch their first European under-21 title since winning the inaugural competition, as Czechoslovakia, in 1972.

France were hoping to become the first nation ever to simultaneously hold the senior and under-21 European title but Raymond Domenech's side paid the price for a number of squandered opportunities during the first 90 minutes.

Cech on form

Having eliminated their Swiss hosts in the semi-finals, France appeared particularly threatening in the first half. But those missed opportunities and some superb saves from Czech goalkeeper Peter Cech were to cost the French dear as the match approached its climax.

A timid extra time saw neither side apparently willing to push too far forward in search of a golden goal, leaving Norwegian referee Tom Ovrebo to signal for penalties.

Weak shots

Once again, Cech was to be the man in the spotlight, assuredly saving two weak shots from French forward Pierre-Emmanuel Frau and defender Julien Escude. A badly-struck Jean-Alain Boumsong effort then rocketed over Cech's cross-bar to seal victory for Miroslav Beránek's youngsters.

Watched by more than 20,000 spectators, Tuesday's final brought a satisfying if not always thrilling end to what has been generally perceived as a successful tournament.

The final result though was harsh on the French who had won all their previous matches, including a 2-0 group win over the Czechs, and had looked easily the strongest team in Switzerland - prior to their penalty kicks.

by Mark Ledsom

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