The U-21 European Championships kick off in the Czech Republic on Wednesday and there is a lot of expectation on this years tournament, more so than previously. One of the reasons could be that players who could have easily skipped the competition have opted to play in it and represent their country with a genuine chance of winning some silverware. Here is a closer look at Group B:inFOLIO Research Group
Luigi Di Baggio has some of Europe’s finest prospects at his disposal but his Italy side made hard work of qualifying for the tournament. Playing a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 formation, Palermo’s Andrea Belotti leads the line after scoring six goals to help Italy on their way while the exciting Domenico Berardi operates on the left hand side of the system. Most of the team are already established Serie A starters so this tournament will be a very useful experience for a side maturing nicely.
Key Players: Andrea Belotti (Palermo) Domenico Berardi (co-owned by Juventus and Sassuolo)Daniele Rugani (Empoli)
England once again go into a tournament with extremely high expectations, but for once they could be realistic. Goals should not be a problem for the side who boast a front line of Saido Berahino, Danny Ings and the man himself Harry Kane. Slightly going under the radar, the defence led by Everton’s John Stones and Arsenal Calum Chamber’s conceded only four times in qualifying, the best record in the continent. With midfield control provided by James Ward Prowse, Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes, England will be a team to be reckoned with in the Czech Republic.
Key Players: Harry Kane (Tottenham) John Stones (Everton) Saido Berahino (West Brom)
Portugal arrive in the tournament having won their last ten games but Rui Jorge will be missing some key players through injury and the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. The biggest weakness in the side lies in attack and with Andre Gomes in New Zealand, the side at least have Gonçalo Paciência available again after injury. Nonetheless, playing in a tradition 4 – 3 – 3 the Portuguese will be a tough side to beat.
Key Players: Rúben Neves (Porto) William Carvalho (Sporting) Bernardo Silva (Monaco)
Having qualified for the tournament by beating France in a dramatic play off, team spirit is the trademark of this gritty side who all work hard for each other and their coach. Sweden will play with a 4 – 4 – 2 formation with their fullbacks looking to push on and their midfielders squeezing inside to pack the midfield. Although there might not be anything spectacular about the side, they will be hard to break down.
Key Players: John Guidetti (Manchester City) Ludwig Augustinsson (FC Copenhagen) Robin Quaison (Palermo)