An England v Germany semi final at any international tournament is enough to send chills down the spine of any Three Lions fans, but that’s exactly what will happen on Tuesday evening in the Under-21 tournament in Poland.
It could mark quite an incredible year for England’s youth players after victory in the U20’s World Cup and the Toulon Tournament in June. England’s Under-17 side also reached the final of the Euro Under-17 competition in May, losing out by the finest margin on penalties to Spain.
England won group A with a convincing 3-0 win over tournament hosts Poland on Thursday, with Demarai Gray, Jacob Murphy and Lewis Baker on the scoresheet. It was their second win in the competition and saw them top the group with seven points. Their opponents Germany qualified in rather unusual fashion, hanging on to a 1-0 defeat to Italy in order to finish as the best runner up across the three groups.
The Germans had comfortably beaten Czech Republic and Denmark to lead the way in group C prior to the final match against Italy. The Italians needed to win to have a hope of getting through and took an early lead in the 31st minute. Czech Republic could have also qualified from the group ahead of the last games, but they were on the way to a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Denmark, meaning that Germany would finish as best runner up by a single goal ahead of Slovakia – 2nd in group A. That permutation led to a situation where both Italy and Germany would qualify with the status quo, and the Germans made little attempt to score as the game wore on.
Group B was far less complicated as Spain won all three games, conceding just once to Portugal. The Portuguese finished on the same number of points as Germany, but couldn’t surpass the Germans +4 goal difference to snatch that best runner up spot. So it’s on to the semi finals on Tuesday, where Spain will line up against Italy and England will face Germany.
England U21 v Germany U21
England and Germany have a history of penalty kicks, and no doubt under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd will hope to avoid that eventuality, however the value certainly looks to lay with the draw at +235 with Winner Sports.
These are two top sides at this level and a very even game is expected. A friendly in March gives us some very recent form to go on and many of the players that took part will take to the field again here. Amiri’s first half goal gave Germany a 1-0 victory in that game, so England will be looking to turn the tables. the last time these two met at international level was in the 2009 final, where Stuart Pearce’s side were beaten by a Germany team including the likes of Neuer and Ozil.
England started the competition with a 0-0 draw against Sweden but have been at their best since that slow start. A 2-1 defeat of Slovakia followed before that comprehensive 3-0 win over 10-man Poland.
Germany had looked invincible after successive 2-0 and 3-0 wins over Czech Republic and Denmark, but that defeat to Italy has brought them back down to earth. The Germans have tended to have the upper hand at under-21 level over the years, but this particular England squad includes many players involved in winning last year’s Toulon tournament and they are more than good enough to hold their own.
Spain U21 v Italy U21
Spain’s youngsters have won the last the last five on the spin, and haven’t lost a match since a 3-0 defeat to Croatia back in March 2016. They also beat Italy 2-1 in a friendly in March of this year, going two goals ahead early on before the Italians pulled one back in the second half.
In this competition they started with a 5-0 rout of Macedonia, before beating group runners up Portugal 3-1. Their final game was a routine 1-0 win over Serbia in which they were already ahead before their opponents were reduced to ten men late in the first half. That saw them through with nine points and a perfect record, and they are justifiably favourites here.
Italy qualified top of group C by virtue of beating Germany 1-0 in that final game, but it didn’t look on the cards at any stage throughout the competition. Germany had a goal ruled out before Fiorentina’s Bernardeschi notched in the 31st minute and his countrymen held on from there on in. Previously Italy had managed a 2-0 win over Denmark but were beaten 3-1 by Czech Republic.
It’s hard to gauge just how good the Italians are, because if Germany had needed something from that match the Italians might not even be in the semi finals. As it is they were a benefactor of circumstances, but one doesn’t expect them to be a match for a slick young Spanish side.
England U21 and Germany U21 to Draw
Tuesday 27th June, 17:00 GMT
Spain U21 to beat Italy U21
Tuesday 27th June, 20:00 GMT
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