Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez scored a hat-trick for the Spanish under-21’s as they saw off Italy’s youngsters in an entertaining semi final on Tuesday. On the same night Germany’s talented youth beat Aidy Boothroyd’s England side, taking the traditional route of dumping the Three Lions out via a penalty shoot out.
Clearly two of the best sides in Europe with a host of up-and-coming talent, Spain and Germany will meet in the Krakow stadium in Poland on Friday night. For those who have been watching this tournament unfold, it’s been highly entertaining with plenty of great matches and lots of goals. Unlike most international competitions, the under-21 championship has a rather cut-throat feel about it at the finals tournament. From three groups of four teams, only the first placed sides go through to the semi finals, joined by the best runner-up across the three groups. There are no second chances, second rounds, or quarter finals – it’s a cut to the chase.
England, Spain and Italy were the group winners in this year’s tournament in Poland, with Germany squeezing through as the best runner up by virtue of goal difference. Spare a thought for Slovakia’s youngsters who finished second in England’s group and were just one goal short of qualifying ahead of Germany for the last four.
In all too familiar fashion it was a penalty shoot out that eventually saw the Germans exert their superiority over England, after a thrilling 2-2 draw in 90 minutes. Nathan Redmond’s penalty was saved by German goalkeeper Julian Pollersbeck, resulting in a 4-3 spot kick win.
England had led 2-1 with 20 minutes of the contest remaining, but couldn’t hold on to make their way to the final. Selke had put Germany ahead after 35 minutes, but Leicester’s Demarai Gray pulled the Three Lions level before the break, and Tammy Abraham notched on 50 minutes to put Boothroyd’s men in charge. Platte’s equaliser after 70 minutes took the game to extra time, and ultimately the penalty shoot out in which Germany held their nerve best.
Spain’s semi final against Italy also featured four goals – all of them coming in an eventful second half. A goalless first half gave no indication of what was to come, and Atletico’s Saul Niguez was first to land a blow when he struck after 53 minutes. Italy were quickly reduced to ten men when Roberto Gagliardini was given his marching orders on 58 minutes for a second booking, but the Azzurri hit back against the odds with Federico Bernardeschi’s equaliser just four minutes later.
Spain took charge from that point on with Saul adding two more goals on 65 and 74, to put the result beyond doubt. It was Spain’s fourth win in four matches at this competition, games in which they have scored a total of 12 goals.
The under-21 side have lost just one match in the last 20 across all competitions – a 3-0 reverse to Croatia in March last year in the qualification campaign for this European Championship. Of the other 19 games they have won 15 and drawn 4, and they could barely be in better form heading into the match. Including friendlies it is six straight victories, with a total of 17 goals scored and just 4 conceded.
Germany have already lost one game at this tournament – the 1-0 defeat to Italy in their final group match – but they do have an equally impressive record overall. They’ve won 16 of their last 20 fixtures, drawing just once (against England in the semi final) and losing three times. It may be worth noting, however, that those results have all come in the last seven games after an extended winning run previously. It’s also worth pointing out that Joachim Low has called up several German youngsters for the full international squad which is competing in the Confederations Cup in Russia, so this under-21 squad has been raided for some of the best quality to represent the senior side.
Another bet that looks a good shout is over 2.5 goals at -115 with 188Bet.
Two of Germany’s four games, and three of Spain’s four fixtures in this tournament have exceeded that goal line. There is no reason to believe that this match will go the way of a ‘typical’ final where both sides play conservatively in order to give nothing away. Both semi finals featured four goals and it’s fair to say that both sides are better going forward than they are at the back.
Spain U21 to beat Germany U21
Friday 30th June, 19:45 GMT
Spain U21 v Germany U21 – Over 2.5 goals
Friday 30th June, 19:45 GMT