Italy were crowned European under 17 champions after beating Portugal 3-0 in front of a bumper crowd of 7,120 at the Limassol Arena on Wednesday night.

The Azzurri started like a house on fire, spurred on by a large Italian fan contingent populating much of the end behind the goal they were defending in the first half.

Captain Mattia Mosconi gave them a taste of what was to come with a shot which was fired low just outside Portuguese goalkeeper Diogo Ferreira’s near post.

Mattia Liberali was in on the action soon after, spinning 360 degrees with the ball on the edge of Portugal’s penalty area, laying the ball off to Francesco Camarda, whose shot was dragged wide of the post.

Their early pressure got its reward after seven minutes, with an inch-perfect cross from Cristian Cama meeting the head of Federico Coletta, who powered the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

They then had a chance to double their lead, a defensive mistake from Rafael Mota allowing Camarda a one-on-one chance, but his effort was well saved by Diogo Ferreira.

They were not held to a single goal for long, however, with Cama once again providing the assist, playing the ball down the left-hand touchline for Camarda to run on to.

Camarda did the rest, taking the ball to the byline before cutting back onto his right foot and lashing the ball past Diogo Ferreira, to put Italy two goals to the good with just a quarter of an hour played.

Portugal had come from two behind to beat Serbia in their semi final, and would now have to do the same if they were to win the tournament.

They did grow into the game after going two behind, with Geovany Quenda firing a rasping shot at goal from the edge of the penalty area which Italian goalkeeper Massimo Pessina, deputising for the injured Alessandro Longoni, could only parry. From there, the ball fell to Eduardo Fernandes, but his Pessina was able to save his effort more comfortably.

Quenda then created another chance for himself, driving in off the right-hand side and working a shot from a tight angle, but Pessina was able to save comfortably.

The tournament’s top scorer Rodrigo Mora then came close with a header from an Edgar Mota cross, before Italy gave them a little reminder of the inherent threat they carried going forward, with a shot from Federico Coletta curling just wide of the post.

Portugal then went straight back up the other end and, Rodrigo Mora driving through the Italian defence and laying the ball off to Eduardo Fernandes, who pulled off a good shot from the edge of the box, but one to which Massimo Pessina was equal.

The game continued in an end-to-end fashion, with Emanuele Sala drilling the ball at Diogo Ferreira, who could only gather the ball at the second attempt, and then Eduardo Felicissimo trying a shot from 30 yards just seconds later, which flew into the hands of Pessina.

The half ended with three chances for Portugal, Rodrigo Mora firing two shots off target, and Geovany Quenda failing to get enough on a header from a Martim Cunha cross to direct it towards the target.

Portugal will feel they could and maybe should have had a penalty in the second minute of the second half when Rodrigo Mora was brought down inside the box, but Bulgarian referee Radoslav Gidzhenov waved away their protests, and Italy immediately sprung an attack, with Mattia Mosconi forcing Diogo Ferreira into a save.

Three minutes later, Italy put the game beyond all doubt, a clever through ball from Mosconi cutting the Portuguese defence open and leaving Francesco Camarda with only Ferreira to beat, and Camarda clipped the ball beyond him to put the Azzurri 3-0 up with 40 minutes to play.

With Italy now three goals to the good, the pace of the game dropped and the chances at both ends of the pitch dried up.

Portugal looked marginally the more likely to score, but with the scoreline as it was, Italy never looked particularly uncomfortable.

The picks of the slim pickings were a shot into the side netting from Eduardo Fernandes, a header from Rodrigo Mora which went wide, and a shot from Rafael Mota from distance which whizzed over Massimo Pessina’s crossbar.

At the opposite end, Federico Coletta had a shot straight at Diogo Ferreira from 20 yards.

The state of the game was summed up with a quarter of an hour with innumerable attempts to start a Mexican wave. The attempts at a Mexican wave did gather momentum but were hindered by the fact that the Cyprus Mail’s correspondent aside, it found little enthusiasm in the part of the ground allocated to the press.

The fact that the sting was taken out of the game is not a reflection of any death in quality, however. Italy’s ability to kill a game, a European championship final, against a Portugal side which has shone throughout the tournament is a testament to their ability and maturity.

Portugal can be proud of their efforts, too, winning the “group of death” containing Spain, France, and England, coming from behind to beat Spain and thrashing England 4-1 in the process.

They will also go home with the memories of a spectacular late show against Serbia in Sunday’s semi final to make it this far.

However, on the day, and throughout the tournament, the day belonged to Italy. A resolute defence and two outstanding goalkeepers were what won them the tournament, with only two goals conceded across their six games.