Things are hotting up in the U21s Euros over in Poland, and, with the Under-20s winning the World Cup a couple of weeks ago, the pressure is on England’s Young Lions to come up with the goods in Europe. However, to reach the Final, they must defeat the old enemy. It’s also worth noting that there’s no guarantees of winning the Final either, as Spain and Italy both battle it out to be in the last two.
“Ah, how we’ve missed this classic fixture.” These are the words said by both sets of fans prior to any meeting, but then the game begins, England play poorly, lose – more often than not – probably on penalties and it’s a case of those “pesky, efficient Germans!” But will it be different this time around? Surely England are due a bit of luck against them? Who can forget the Frank Lampard goal that wasn’t given in 2010 and the fact that if Gazza was a size bigger then England would have defeated them in the 1996 Euros.
It’s time to create more history for the Young Lions, who have got further in this tournament than they have in the last three Euros competitions. And whilst it’s a nice feat to have, it’ll mean little should Aidy Boothroyd’s boys bomb out of the tournament now.
The Germans have always found a way to win in the past and have personnel who have all played regularly in the last season, including midfield pairing Mahmoud Dahoud and reported Tottenham target Max Meyer. Another Max – Wolfsburg’s Max Arnold – is likely to be pulling the strings in midfield, whilst Davie Selkie of RB Leipzig is likely to lead the line.
It remains whether to be seen if Boothroyd will make changes or go with the same side who emphatically dispatched hosts Poland on Thursday evening. Nathan Redmond and Nathaniel Chalobah picked up knocks against the Poles and could be doubts, but England are steadily growing into the tournament following something of a shaky start and players such as Norwich City’s Jacob Murphy are now stepping up.
What We Sayin’?
A tough one to call. Those longer suffering England fans may remember Germany U21 boss Stefan Kuntz scored one of the penalties for Germany when they knocked England out of the Euro 96 tournament. Will the Young Lions get one over him or will it be a case of Kuntz by name, Kuntz by nature? It’s England, nobody knows whether they’ll turn up or not, so we’re opting for Demarai Gray to score first at 8/1.
One for the football purists comes later in the day as the Spanish showcase their flair against the steely defensive unit that is Italy. The Italians snuck through to the semi-finals by the skin of their teeth as they somehow defeated the Germans, and, coupled with the Czech’s defeat against Denmark, topped the group despite the odds – literally – being against them.
They will have been buoyed by that confidence-boosting victory against Stefan Kuntz’s side last time out and will come into this game against the Spain stars with genuine belief that they can trump them and reach the Final.
The aforementioned Spaniards have a real array of talent, with Marco Asensio shining in the group stages, whilst he’s likely to be joined in the XI with the likes of Dani Ceballos, Saul, Denis Suarez, Everton’s Gerard Deulofeu and Toffees target Sandro. There’s quality all over the park too, with Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin likely to keep his place at right back and Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal.
Federico Bernadeschi was the hero last time out with the vital goal and is probably going to start again. Another highly rated goalkeeper in Gianluigi Donnarumma will be in goal for his country, whilst Roberto Gagliardini (find us a more Italian sounding name) impressed massively against Germany and will also begin in central midfield.
What We Sayin’?
Despite confidence being high in the Italy camp, it’s hard to see them overpowering a Spain team who have won all three games in the tournament, scoring an average of three goals per game and conceding just a single goal from the three matches played so far. A 3-1 Spain win probably looks a likely scoreline at a decent looking 12/1.
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