European Under-21 Championship Group A Preview

Spread the love

The UEFA European Under-21 Championship begins this Friday, with Europe’s next generation taking the field. Hosted in Poland, 12 of the continent’s best face off for the title of European Champions. Big names like Mesut Özil, Isco and Gianluigi Buffon used the tournament as a stepping stone, before becoming senior national team members. The tournament starts on Friday, with England facing reigning champions Sweden. Both sides sit in group A, a group featuring England’s young guns, the host nation and outsiders Slovakia.

European Under-21 Championship Group A Preview

Poland 

Hosts Poland head into the tournament just like all the rest, with hope and optimism. This squad has enough talent to make it out of the group, but that may be about it. Lacking star power, fans of the white and reds can expect a solid showing from their team. Bartłomiej Drągowski is expected to start in goal. He has been a standout since his time with Jagiellonia Bialystok and is now a back-up with Italian side Fiorentina. Arsenal youngster Krystian Bielik has also made the squad after an impressive season on loan at Birmingham. Expect this squad to fight in an unpredictable three-way fight in group A.

Player to watch—Dawid Kownacki 

After drawing comparisons to fellow compatriot Robert Lewandowski, Dawid Kownacki is Poland’s star man. The versatile forward is capable of playing either on the wing or up front. It’s this kind of versatility that has led to the talented forward scoring 21 goals in 94 games in Poland’s Ekstraklasa with Lech Poznan. He will need to be at his very best if Poland are to reach the knockout round. Several clubs are said to be interested, with this tournament being the ideal opportunity to put himself in the shop window.

England

Another tournament, another chance. Fresh off a victory in the Under-20 World Cup, England are favourites to win Group A. Easily the most talented team in the group, England should qualify if all goes to plan. In what looks like a three-way race between England, Poland and Sweden, Aidy Boothroyd’s team will need to be at their best to qualify.

In previous efforts, England have looked lacklustre. Runners-up in 2009, they have failed to reach the semi-finals since. The talent is there, but if things don’t fall into place, they could be looking at yet another shock exit.

Player to watch—Tammy Abraham 

In squad full of Premier League talent, England’s player to watch is Tammy Abraham. He spent last season on loan at Bristol City in the Championship, scoring 26 goals in 48 games. Expected to decide his Chelsea future after the tournament, Abraham will be relied upon to be the side’s primary goal threat. If he can take his Championship form into this tournament, fans can expect the Young Lions to do very well.

Sweden 

Reigning champions Sweden have enough talent to get out of Group A, but don’t expect a repeat of 2015. Winning on penalties last time around, Sweden enter with less talent, but should still fight to get out of the group even though they are lacking in impact players. Manager Håkan Ericson has a tough tournament ahead, but this team might just have enough.

Player to watch—Niclas Eliasson

In a team lacking star talent, Niclas Eliasson is a player who can change a game in a single run. Often running at defenders, Eliasson can wreck havoc when in form. The part-Brazilian winger plays for Norrköping in Sweden and led the league in assists this past season. He has been in the spotlight since he was 17, when he led Falkenberg to the Swedish top flight. Labelled a future star, he has had some difficult years since. Now 20 years of age, Eliasson has found his form once again. If the talented wide man plays well, expect Sweden to follow suit.

Slovakia

Group A is full of good teams, but the outsiders are clearly Slovakia. The Falcons enter with no expectations, but that could play into their hands. Similar to Hungary in last year’s European Championship, Slovakia’s low expectations could lead to the team playing without pressure.

Player to watch—László Bénes

Compared to Slovakia and Napoli star Marek Hamšík, Bénes is a player who will look to control the midfield. Capable of scoring and creating, the Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder has only played two games for the Under-21’s, but should be a key man. If given the freedom by manager Pavel Hapal, Bénes could turn this group on its head. Maybe Slovakia will be bottom dwellers, but there is a very small chance this group could spring a surprise.

Main Photo