Written by Andy
Well it wasn’t that bad football fans was it?
The season ended but at least we have the U’21 Championships starting tonight from Israel and today we will look at my predictions and potential star players to look out for
So we have two groups with the top two teams from each group going through after each side has played each other once then you have the winners of Group A against the runners-up of Group B and vice-versa
Group A contains England, Israel, Italy, Norway
Group B contains Germany, Holland, Russia, Spain
So lets have a look at the teams and my predictions for them
England : England have some good young players in their team a lot of which are shining at Championship and not Premier League level and this could be key for their chances as other nations have players playing in the top leagues. Players I like in the England squad are Clyne, Chalobah, Caulker, Zaha and Ince so its more solid than anything else which should see England advance from the group but for me they won’t get past the semi final as they will be in for a tough match regardless when you look at Group B.
Israel : The hosts Israel will just be happy to be here and will hope their unknown quantity will surprise a few teams in their group. Every single one of their players plays for an Israeli club with the exception of Omri altman who is on the books of Fulham. Never underestimate a nation in their home country hosting a tournament as many have done this in the past for bigger tournaments but this is a difficult group for the hosts and I can’t see them getting out this group.
Italy : This is a very good young Italian side that possesses a lot of attacking quality. For me they will win this group due to the solid defence and midfield as you’d expect but mainly due to their quality in attack. Names like Bardi, Verratti, Marrone, Immobile, Insigne, Gabbiadini, Destro & Borini all stand out and I can see them winning the group but again like England being knocked out in the semi finals.
Norway : This is a nation very much building a great young team at this level and national team level, I reckon the Norwegians will be a great side in a few years time. This squad will run England close for second place in my view and it wouldn’t surprise me if they pipped the English, I think they will just fall shot but players I like in this side is Singh, Berisha, Henriksen, Nordtveit, Eikrem, Elabdellaoui, Berget and Nielsen. Expect a strong showing from this side.
Germany : For me this is the winning team right here and it contains many fine players throughout the squad. Germany will win their group and defeat England or Italy in the semi final. Infact I can see them playing fellow Group B team Holland in the final and winning against them. The 3 keepers Leno, Baumann & horn could get into most national teams at senior level never mind U’21s. You then have a solid defence along with some quality sought after midfield players such as Sebastian Rudy who will play alongside Tottenham’s Lewis Holtby. Back ups are Rode, Mortiz & Can to make a formidable German midfield. The attack is also full of quality with Volland, Mlapa and Hermann vying for places. Outstanding German team and its no less than you expect from a nation that runs it teams so well. Winners
Holland : Excellent side throughout like Germany and a big reason why I believe they will meet them in the final. Possibly the best defence in the tournament with van Rhijn,de Vrij, Martins Indl, Blind & van Aanholt competing for places. Some great quality in midfield also with Clasie, Strootman, Maher, Fer, van Ginkel & Vilhena. Attack is looking superb also with de Jong, Ola John, Wijnaldum & Hoesen. Its going to be fascinating to see how this side does as I think Germany have the better keepers, Holland have the better defence, the midfields are even but Germany have the slightly better attack. It will be very close but I think Germany will pip Holland. If they don’t of course then Holland will be the team to win it. Runners Up
Russia : A very good young Russian side will make this group of powerhouses interesting as they too have talent. Dzagoev, Kokorin & Kanunnikov are the star players for me and the defences will have to be on guard with those three. Russia do have the ability to do something against these big teams so I wouldn’t ever rule out an upset especially when you have talent like Russia do. For me this task will be too great though as the defence will struggle against quality striker forces. They could be one of the better teams to finish bottom of a European U’21 Group thats for sure.
Spain : People reading will think I’m crazy writing off the favourites according to the bookies Spain but for me Germany and Holland will do the business. Spain have De Gea, Montoya, Bantra, Muniesa, Carvajal, Canales, Koke, Isco, Rodrigo, Tello & Muniain to name a few excellent team, superb potential superstars in it but its all about the setups and I can see Spain getting pipped into 3rd place in this group. Of course you can never rule out such a talented squad and they aren’t given the favourite’s tag for nothing but I can only call it how I see it and my crazy prediction is this Spain side won’t win this tournament and the final will be Germany v Holland!
Potential Stars of the Tournament
Nathaniel Chalobah, England
This kid is a star in the making, can play in defence or midfield Sierra Leone born Chalobah had a brilliant season at Watford on loan from Chelsea. Excellent engine and technique I reckon this lad will make a name for himself at this tournament and very much a player to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Marco Verratti & Lorenzo Insigne, Italy
Both players had excellent seasons at their respective clubs PSG & Napoli. Verratti is a player who plays the game like a veteran despite his young years, strong in the tackle and can pass abit also. Insigne is possibly one of the quickest footballers in world football and not many will catch this lad, he knows where the net is also and has 5 goals from 8 appearances at this level for Italy. Both players are absolute quality.
Sebastian Rudy & Patrick Herrmann, Germany
Both players impressed immensely at their respective Bundesliga clubs Hoffenheim & Gladbach this season. Rudy like I said in the Germany review above is much sought after with numerous stand out showings in a Hoffenheim team that struggled but due to a late run saved their Bundesliga status via the playoff. Gritty tough tackling player is Rudy he has excellent stamina and is an all round classy player. Herrmann is a player who is very quick and skillful and started out as a winger but has been deployed to great effect through the middle, I reckon this lad will get a big move either off the back of this Championship or after another impressive Bundesliga season. Spurs were linked until he signed a new deal recently. Big things expected of two star German talents.
Jordy Clasie, Holland
I’ve admired this lad for a couple of seasons now, he is part of a very talented young Feyenoord side and is a superstar in the making. Big clubs are already circling and this could be the tournament that seals a big money move. The player signed a new deal with Feyenoord last month but if anything all that does is get them even more money for this classy elegant midfield player. Some have called Classie the next Xavi and that alone tells you his standing in the game already despite a young age. Expect to see him shine
I could easily write about another 20 players who will shine but that will do for now
I hope you enjoyed this blog and the tournament itself which kicks off tonight