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The UEFA European under-21 Championship is reaching the business end this week as the final group matches are played out. Just eight teams compete in this tournament, with the top two in each group making it through to the semi-finals. Both groups are finely balanced, with each of the four teams in each section still in with a chance of qualifying, and it’s all to play for.
Germany sit top of group A with four points and they play the Czech Republic who have three points after the impressive 4-0 win over Serbia. Denmark are also on three points, while Serbia are bottom with a single point from their draw with Germany.
England left it late to beat Sweden on Sunday, with Jesse Lingard’s 85th minute volley securing a 1-0 win and three valuable points. Portugal top the group with four, Sweden are level with England on three, and Italy are bottom with one point after their 0-0 draw with Portugal. The full standings can be seen on the UEFA website here.
Final Group Fixtures
Group A, Tuesday 23rd June, 7.45pm
Czech Republic v Germany
The hosts went down to a 2-1 defeat in the tournament opener, but they came out firing against Serbia and shot their way to a 4-0 win. They face a tough game against the favourites for the competition, Germany, but home advantage could play a big part. Germany drew 1-1 with Serbia in their first game, but upped the tempo against Denmark to cruise to a 3-0 win. If teams finish level on points in the groups then the head-to-head record comes into play, but Germany can guarantee qualification with at least a draw. That may be enough for Czech Republic, but only if Serbia beat Denmark in the other game. A win would see the Czech’s through, but a defeat would see them definitely out.
Germany are fancied to win, but they are too short at the odds, especially considering they don’t need to win to progress.
Denmark v Serbia
The other game is much more interesting from a betting perspective, and Serbia are worth backing to give themselves a tournament lifeline by beating Denmark. The 4-0 defeat to Czech Republic was a real disappointment for the Serbs, but they are better judged on the 1-1 draw they managed against Germany earlier in the competition. They knocked out Spain over two legs in the qualification play-off for this competition, and have some good quality among their ranks.
The Danes secured a comeback win over the Czech Republic, which looks a better result in light of the Czech performance against Serbia, but the 3-0 defeat to Germany brought them thumping back down to earth. This will be a well-contested game, but there is nothing in the Danish pedigree that suggests they should be favourites for this game, and Serbia look good value.
A draw would be enough for Denmark to qualify if Czech Republic fail to beat Germany, so they may be in two minds of how to approach the game. For Serbia the task is simple, they must win to progress.
Group B, Wednesday 24th June, 7.45pm
England v Italy
After the 1-0 defeat to Portugal in the first game, England were five minutes from a bore draw with Sweden before Jesse Lingard breathed new life into their campaign. His late winner gave England three points and a real chance of qualification for the semi-finals. A draw against Italy would be enough provided Sweden don’t beat Portugal in the other match, but we’re backing the Three Lions to come out on top and guarantee their passage to the last four.
Italy suffered a shock 2-1 reverse against Sweden in the first match, and the 0-0 draw with Portugal has left them bottom with one point. They must beat England and hope that Portugal beat Sweden, but their situation looks precarious and they’re yet to score in open play in the competition. They won a penalty to go ahead against Sweden and drew a blank against Portugal.
England have only managed the one goal as well, but crucially, they have the wind in their sails after that confidence-boosting win, and they can go on to beat Italy on their way to the last four.
Portugal v Sweden
Portugal have been very impressive in two games so far, and they are the only team in the competition yet to concede a goal. Having kept out England and Italy, they are fancied to do the same against Sweden and grab the three points that will secure top spot in the group and a semi-final against the runner-up in group A.
Sweden’s victory against Italy was all the more impressive because they played over an hour of the game with ten men. Italy were also reduced to ten late on, but it was a monumental effort from the Swedes to come from behind to win. They were also resolute against England, and defended stoutly for much of the game before going down to the late winner. A surprise victory for Sweden here would see them definitely qualify, while a draw would only be good enough if Italy beat England.
A draw would be enough for Portugal to qualify, but a win would guarantee top spot and see them avoid the winners of group A. That looks likely to be Germany, so there is plenty of motivation for Portugal to win this match and dodge the favourites for the competition.
UEFA under-21 European Championship, Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th June:
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