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UEFA Euro U21 2017 preview: A look at the favorites

UEFA Euro U21 2017 will take place June 16-30 in Poland where 12 teams will battle it out in 3 groups

Sweden are the current champions of the competition after they won against Portugal in a penalty shoot-out in 2015 in Czech Republic. The Swede’s compact defensive play combined with dangerous counter attacks made them go all the way against a well playing Portuguese side.

However, many strong teams will be participating in this edition of the EURO U21, so Sweden will have to perform at their very best if they want to keep their hopes up.

Compared to previous editions of the tournament, this year 12 teams will participate contrary earlier years where only 8 teams participated.

Spain and Germany are the favorites to lift the trophy according to bookmakers, but Italy and Portugal also looks potent, as do England.

Here is an overview of the groups:

Group A: England, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia

Group B: Spain, Portugal, Serbia, Macedonia

Group C: Germany, Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic

 

Group A:

Group A looks to be the weakest group at the competition with a weak Polish team who are only competing as they are hosting the tournament. Slovakia went through the qualification with a lot of goals to their name, but aren’t given much chance against the best teams.

Despite Sweden winning in 2015, England is the favorite to win the group. England went unbeaten through the qualification and only allowed 3 goals against them in 8 games.

England:

Possible starting lineup (4-2-3-1):

Pickford – Holgate, Chambers, Holding, Targett – Chalobah, Ward-Prowse – Gray, Baker, Redmond – Abraham

Best players:

Jordan Pickford: one of the bright spots for Sunderland this season, where he has been their first choice in goal. Recently sold to Everton for 30 million pounds..

James Ward-Prowse: A very skillful Southampton midfielder with a great set piece foot.

Nathan Redmond: The winger played 32 games as a starter for Southampton this season in the Premier League. He is very fast and likes to challenge his opponents.

during the Premier League match between Southampton and Watford at St Mary’s Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Southampton, England.

Coach:

Aidy Boothroyd has experience as a manager for numerous English teams and got promoted to the Premier League with Watford in 2005-06 before they got relegated the year after.

History at the UEFA U21:

Gold: 1982, 1984

Semifinals: 1978, 1980, 1986, 1988, 2007

2015: Group play

 

Group B:

The group features two of the favorites to win the competition with Spain and Portugal as well as Serbia and Macedonia. Spain is the overall favorite to win the competition, and has called in a lethal squad list with prominent names from Real Madrid and Barcelona. Portugal also brings some dangerous players and the team finished second in the 2015 edition. Serbia and Macedonia however isn’t left with much chance in this tough group.

Spain:

Spain arrives at the competition as favorites, with a terrifying squad. Prominent names are attending of which many are playing daily for some of the best teams in the world such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao and the list goes on. The team are playing in the same formation as the Spanish National Team, and they like to play possession based football mixed with nice technical play. Clearly a team who are going hard for the trophy this summer.

Possible lineup (4-3-3):

Kepa – Bellerin, Mere, Vallejo, Gaya – Saul, Merino/Llorente, Asensio – Deulofeu, Sandro, Suarez

Best players:

Marco Asensio: Spain’s best player without a doubt. Helped Real Madrid to a double triumph, and despite his young age he battled Isco and Bale for a place in the starting lineup. A very skillful technician who at the same time is very dangerous in front of goal. He is similar to none other than Lionel Messi in his play, and the opposition will hate it when he has the ball. Recently signed a new contract with Real madrid with an insane release clause of €350 million.

Hector Bellerin: A very fast and strong right back who plays as a starter for Arsenal, and who is wanted by FC Barcelona.

Gerard Deulofeu: Incredible speed and at the same time a very dangerous winger who is good mano y mano. Has been a regular for AC Milan since he joined from Everton in January.

Saul Niguez: Dynamical midfielder who is among the profiles in Atletico Madrid.

Sandro: Dangerous striker who plays as a starter for Malaga. Former FC Barcelona striker. Wil without a doubt make it hard for the opposition.

Denis Suarez: The FC Barcelona midfielder holds a fantastic technique and his skillful movements reminds of a young David Silva.

Vallejo: The center back was recently loaned to Eintracht Frankfurt from Real Madrid, but the capital club has decided to bring him back this summer, where he is expected to play instead of Pepe who is going out the front door of real Madrid.

Jose Gaya: Skillful left back who plays as a regular for Valencia. With only 22 year of age, this player is looking at an illustrious career.

LA CORUNA, SPAIN – APRIL 26: Marco Asensio of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between RC Deportivo La Coruna and Real Madrid at Riazor Stadium on April 26, 2017 in La Coruna, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Coach:

Albert Celades (since 2014)

History at the UEFA U21:

Gold: 1986, 1998, 2011, 2013

Silver: 1984, 1996

Bronze: 1994, 2000

2015: didn’t qualify

 

Portugal

The Portuguese boys are eager to repeat the success of the National Team last year at the EURO 2016 in France, and the team also blasted through the qualification. With 8 wins and 2 draws and a goal score of 34-5 the Portuguese will be a tough test for all teams in the tournament.

The team faced easy opponents in the qualification though, and the team is set to play without starters from the qualification – the top scorer Silva, the winger Gelson Martins, the creative midfielder lopes and the left back Rafa.

Portugal however, still has a great amount of talent in their squad, and the team looks strong and is considered a serious contender for the title.

Possible lineup (4-3-3):

Varela – Cancelo, Semedo, Figueiredo, Rebocho/Rodrigues – Fernandes, Sanches, Neves – R. Horta, Paciencia, Bruma

Best players:

Renato Sanches: The Bayern München box-to-box player was an important part of the Portuguese success last year in France, and the 19-year-old player looks to be one of the guys to look out for in the future. Was not supposed to play this tournament but joined his team in the last minute.

Bruma: A very skillful winger who for the moment plays for Galatasaray where he has scored 11 goals in 30 games this season. An incredible speed mixed with a dangerous technique makes him able to tease his opponents all day long.

João Cancelo: The right back plays as a starter for Valencia and often for the National team as well.

Paciencia: The striker plays for Rio Ave where he is mostly coming in from the bench, but he is still the shared top scorer in the team with 4 goals in 6 games.

MUNICH, GERMANY – MAY 06: Renato Sanches of Muenchen is challenged by Wilson Kamavuaka of Dramstadt during the Bundesliga match between Bayern Muenchen and SV Darmstadt 98 at Allianz Arena on May 6, 2017 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Coach:

Rui Jorge (since 2010)

History at the UEFA U21:

Silver: 1994, 2015

Bronze: 2004

2015: Silver

 

Group C:

Possibly the most challenging group with 4 good teams. Italy and Germany are the clear favorites in this group but Denmark went through the qualification unbeaten, and the Czechs shouldn’t be underestimated as well.

Germany:

Germany went through the knockout games with maximum points and a goal scoring ratio of 3,5 goals per game. However, large chunks of the team will be participating in the Confederations cup instead which is taking place at the same time as the EURO U21, but the team still poses a threat with its lineup.

Possible lineup (4-2-3-1):

Schwäbe – Toljan/Weiser, Jung, Stark, Gerhardt – Dahoud, Arnold – Öztunali/Philipp, Meyer, Gnabry – Selke

Best players:

Serge Gnabry: Recently switched from Werder Bremen to Bayern München. A skillful player who is best on the wing or in the offensive midfield.

Mahmoud Dahoud: A skillful central midfielder, who was recently sold to Dortmund for a large amount. Will be interesting to follow.

Max Meyer: Skillful technical player who is best on the offensive midfield. A very good talent who can go all the way to the top.

Davie Selke: He is a large striker, and the team’s top scorer in the competition. Recently switched Leipzig for Hertha Berlin

MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY – MAY 20: Mahmoud Dahoud of Moenchengladbach runs with the ball during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and SV Darmstadt 98 at Borussia-Park on May 20, 2017 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Coach:

Stefan Kuntz

History at the UEFA U21:

Gold: 2009

2015: Semi-finals

Italy:

The Italians are presenting a very strong lineup this year, with most of their starters to play regularly in the Serie A. Among these players are Bernardeschi and Berardi.

Not mentioning the 18-year-old goalkeeper Donnarumma, who has been starting for AC Milan for the last two seasons. Without a doubt a strong team who is capable of taking home the gold this time.

Possible lineup (4-4-2):

Donnarumma – Conti, Caldara, Rugani, Murru/Barreca – Berardi, Cataldi, Benassi, Bernardeschi – Cerri, Petagna

Best players:

Donnarumma: Despite only being 18 year old, this tall goalkeeper has been a starter for AC Milan for the last two seasons. He is so good that all the biggest teams in Europe are interested in signing this prospect, who is set to take over the spot at the national team once the legend Gianluigi Buffon retires.

Alberto Cerri: The striker plays on loan from Juventus in the Serie A club Pescara. With his 194 cm he is one to look out for in the box.

Benassi: He is the captain of the team and the top scorer in the qualification with 3 goals. A starter for Torino in Serie A.

Bernardeschi: offensive midfielder/winger in Fiorentina where he has scored 11 goals in 32 games this season.

Berardi: a left legged striker/winger who plays for Sassuolo where he has scored 43 Serie A goals in the last 4 seasons.

Rugani: Centre back who sometime features as a replacement in the Juventus defense.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – MARCH 28: Gianluigi Donnarumma (R) and Mattia De Sciglio of Italy look on prior to the international friendly match between Netherlands and Italy at Amsterdam Arena on March 28, 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Coach:

Di Baglio (since 2013)

History at the UEFA U21:

Gold: 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2004

Silver: 1986, 2013

2015: Group play

 

UEFA EURO U21 2017 will kick off tomorrow Friday at 18:00 CET where the winners from last year, Sweden, will take on England.