The best UEFA Under-21 Championship games of all time

Italy v Spain - UEFA European U21 Championships: Final
Italy v Spain - UEFA European U21 Championships: Final / Alex Grimm/Getty Images

This year's UEFA European Under-21 Championships are underway as part of this weird footballing calendar. The tournament is being co-hosted by Hungary and Slovenia with the group stage due to be wrapped up by the end of the month.

The knockout stages will take place once the club season is over, kicking off on May 31. Looking back on the history of the tournament, we've picked out eight of the best games ever to take place in the competition...

1. Czech Republic 3-2 Italy - May 2002

Italy v Czech Republic X
The Czech Republic won a thrilling encounter / Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The 2002 finals took place in Switzerland and the pair met at the semi-final stage in Zurich.

The Czech republic got off to the perfect start, opening the scoring inside the first minute and they added a second on 83 minutes, seemingly putting the result beyond doubt.

However, a certain Andrea Pirlo converted an 86th-minute penalty and that sparked a late revival with Massimo Maccarone, the former Middlesbrough man himself, scoring deep into stoppage time to force the game into extra-time.

Italian hearts were to be broken though when Michal Pospisil added his second to make it 3-2, with the Czechs winning via the golden goal rule.

2. Serbia & Montenegro 3-2 Croatia - May 2004

Branislav Ivanovic
A young Branislav Ivanovic scored for Serbia & Montenegro / Christopher Lee/Getty Images

The two sides met in the group stages of the competition way back in 2004 and it proved a thrilling encounter that ended 3-2 to Serbia & Montenegro thanks to a late goal from a young and enthusiastic Branislav Ivanovic.

Future Premier League stars Eduardo da Silva and Niko Kranjcar were on the scoresheet for Croatia that day.

This was one of two victories that saw Serbia & Montenegro progress from Group A. They eventually made the final where, unfortunately for them, they were beaten convincingly by a strong Italian side including Daniele De Rossi, Alberto Gilardino and Andrea Barzagli to name a few.

3. Italy 3-3 Denmark - May 2006

Rolando Bianchi
Rolando Bianchi scored a dramatic late equaliser / Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Another high-scoring encounter in which a future Premier League player had a huge say on the outcome - Rolando Bianchi, remember him?

Italy and Denmark met in the group stages and played out a highly entertaining 3-3 draw. Bianchi's late equaliser for the Gli Azzurrini saw them snatch a point but disappointingly, neither side progressed to the knockout stages of the competition.

4. France 2-3 Netherlands - June 2006

Netherlands's Nicky Hofs celebrates afte
Nicky Hofs was the match winner when the Dutch defeated the French in Portugal / MIGUEL RIOPA/Getty Images

These two European football heavyweights met in the semi-finals of the 2006 Championships. The clash took place in the beautiful setting of Braga - in a stadium famously carved into the side of a mountain. The Dutch scraped through to the final thanks to an extra-time goal from Nicky Hofs after it finished 2-2 in normal time.

It was the midfielder's second goal of the game with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar also getting on the scoresheet. Julien Faubert who went on to play for West Ham in the Premier League and, perhaps more surprisingly, Real Madrid, was among the French goal scorers.

The Netherlands went on to win the competition emphatically with a 3-0 victory over Ukraine in the final.

5. England 3-3 Sweden - June 2009

Kieran Gibbs
The unlikely man of the moment / Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

England's Young Lions met the host nation Sweden in the semi-final and this thriller went all the way to a penalty shootout. The two sides could not be separated in regular time with the score ending 3-3 and after a goalless extra-time, England held their nerve to book their place in the final via spot-kicks.

The England side included Joe Hart, Theo Walcott, Micah Richards and James Milner with former Arsenal man Kieran Gibbs scoring the decisive penalty.

Unfortunately for Stuart Pearce, his side came up against an incredibly strong German side full of top talents in the final such as Mesut Ozil, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Manuel Neuer.

6. Netherlands 3-2 Germany - June 2013

Leroy Fer, Ola John
Leroy Fer bagged the winner / Alex Grimm/Getty Images

It looked like the Netherlands were cruising to victory when they took a two-goal lead in Israel - courtesy of goals from Adam Maher and Georginio Wijnaldum. However, early in the second half, the Germans rallied and Sebastian Rudy pulled a goal back from the spot.

Lewis Holtby equalised nine minutes from time to make it 2-2 and when it seemed like all of the momentum was with Germany having battled their way back into contention, Leroy Fer snatched the three points for his side with a 90th minute goal to make it 3-2.

The Netherlands went on to lose in the semi-finals to Italy but perhaps more surprisingly, Germany failed to progress beyond the group stage.

7. Spain 4-2 Italy - June 2013

Thiago Alcantara
Spain won pretty much every international tournament in the early 2010s / Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Spain met Italy in the final of the 2013 competition staged in Israel. In front of almost 30,000 spectators in the Teddy Stadium, the Spaniards turned in one of the best displays the Championships have ever seen.

Thiago Alcantara scored a hat-trick with Isco scoring their fourth in a 4-2 win. The current Liverpool midfielder's reputation was already growing but his performances in this tournament saw him earn the Best Player award and announce himself on the European stage.

Ciro Immobile and Fabio Borini netted for the Italians, but this final belonged to Thiago.

8. England 2-2 Germany - June 2017

Tammy Abraham
Tammy Abraham failed to convert from the spot during the penalty shootout / Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

England suffered semi-final heartbreak in 2017 when they faced their old adversary. Davie Selke put Stefan Kuntz's side in front but the Young Lions responded brilliantly, taking a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Demarai Gray and Tammy Abraham either side of half-time.

Felix Platte levelled things, making it 2-2 with 20 minutes remaining and neither side was able to find a winner before the game went to penalties.

England lost 3-4 in the shootout after Abraham and Nathan Redmond failed to convert their spot-kicks. Kuntz's young men went on to win the tournament with a 1-0 win over Spain in the final.