U21 Euro Championship: A dummy's tournament guide

1Jun 2013

Betfair

 

Michael Lintorn runs through both the format and the standout nations and players involved this year...

 

When does the fun get underway?

The 19th instalment of the eight-nation European Under-21 Championship commences in Israel on June 5 and runs through to June 18.

 

Wasn't the last edition not that long ago?

Unlike the senior European Championship, the Under-21 version is staged every two years. It debuted in 1978 and switched to odd-numbered years in 2007, preventing clashes with the adult World Cup and Euros.

 

Are the participants selected at random?

Not at all. While Israel obtained their spot as hosts, the other seven entrants were made to work, surviving a qualifying process which started with ten groups of five or six teams colliding home and away. The ten table-toppers and four best runners-up then competed in seven two-legged play-offs.

 

How do the finals work?

It is basically a half-sized adaptation of the general European Championship. Two 23-man strong ensembles progress from each of two groups of four ,in which everybody plays one another once, then the winners of each oppose the runners-up of the other in the semi-finals to determine the final line-up.

 

Why are there a whole heap of 22 and 23-year-olds involved?

The Under-21 tag is rather misleading. Anyone born from January 1 1990 and later can be picked, meaning that UEFA's flagship youth event is actually similar to the FIFA-standard Under-23 bracket. So why is it still billed as Under-21? Because to participate, you have to meet that criteria at the start of the qualifying campaign, which is almost two years earlier.

 

Do England's kids serve up similar disappointment to the senior squad?

Though they haven't taken the trophy home since two early editions in 1982 and 1984, the Young Lions have been competitive recently, not that coach Stuart Pearce's stock has really risen as a result. This is the fourth straight time that they have reached the finals, a streak that no other country have managed in that period. They exited in the semi-finals in 2007 - losing to eventual champions the Netherlands in an epic penalty shootout - were humbled 4-0 by Germany in the 2009 final then vacated their group winless in 2011. It is a 6.6 shot that this proves to be their year.

 

Who will prevail if not England?

Spain are 3.1 frontrunners having won the 2011 tournament in pretty emphatic fashion and swept up almost every honour that they have fought for at senior and youth level since 2008. In a far more big nation-heavy line-up than two years ago, Germany are second favourites 5.4, with 7.0-valued Italy and Netherlands a slither behind third-ranked England. Between them, those four countries have contributed the last five winners, explaining why Russia 22.0, Israel 24.0 and Norway 36.0 are all deemed outsiders.

 

Are there many players that I would have heard of competing?

This is a future-star-heavy vintage. While England's headline act is Manchester United newcomer Wilfried Zaha, Spain are rocking the likes of David de Gea, Malaga success story Isco and still-somehow-only-20 Iker Muniain. Germany have faith in the likes of Tottenham midfielder Lewis Holtby and Patrick Hermann, Italy are invested in Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile, a trio that first came to prominence together at Pescara in 2011/12. The Netherlands have enlisted a heap of senior-capped players like Kevin Strootman and Luuk de Jong, while Russia have Alan Dzagoev.

 

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Keywords: U21 Euro Championship, Michael Lintorn, Israel

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