The Swedish Under-19 women’s football team brought home the gold in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship July 14 after a tension-filled 1-0 overtime win over Spain in the final.
Malin Diaz scored the game-winning goal in the 108th minute as Sweden finally etched its name on the trophy. Sweden reached the final in 2009 only to fall to England.
The final marked the second time in six days Sweden and Spain locked horns. The first game, which Swedish manager Calle Barrling called a “sparring match,” ended in a scoreless draw. This time around, there was no sparring as each side came out firing. Both teams enjoyed periods of dominance but neither appeared able to break through. Just as the match looked ready to head to a penalty-kick shootout, Sweden got its chance.
Tournament MVP Elin Rubensson broke down the left side, shaking off Spanish defender Ivana Andrés and delivered a low cross that Dolores Gallardo could only spill into the path of the onrushing Diaz, who fired into the empty net.
"Elin is a great player and scores lots of goals, but it was nice that she set me up," Diaz said. "It has been an amazing trip from the moment we got here to this point in time. It has been great.”
Rubensson finished as the tournament high scorer with five goals.
Diaz said some second-half instructions from Barrling helped calm a nervous Swedish side.
"Spain is a very good team," said Diaz. "They had the ball most of the time, but we are also a good team and managed to deal with them. At half-time, the coach told us to slow down a little bit and keep the ball a lot, and to go forward."
With Diaz buzzing in from the right and Rubensson and Pauline Hammarlund lurking in the shadow of the last defender, Sweden took the initiative. Spain, playing deep on defense, rolled with the punches and began to land the bigger shots. Andrés' header was kept out on the line and Raquel Pinel, starting after her match-winning turn off the bench against Portugal three days ago, twice went close.
Sweden lost Therése Boström 11 minutes before half-time but came alive as an attacking force, with Jennie Nordin squandering a header and Hammarlund poking wide.
Both teams kept the ball on the ground, creating a defensive standoff. Anything in the air, however, prompted a sense of vulnerability, on the other hand, especially for Sweden. Midway through the second period, Jessica Höglander brilliantly turned Torrecilla's header around the upright, but she was helpless five minutes later when Putellas fired a free-kick against the woodwork. By now it was all Spain, but Diaz, who owes her name to a Chilean parent, delivered an almighty sucker punch.
"It was amazing, incredible," Diaz said. "It's very hard to put into words. When the ball game came out to me, all that went through my head was to stick it in the back of the net. I'm so proud. My teammates are amazing and I can't believe we have done this. We have been playing together since we were 15 and finally we have done it."