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.
Group C features two powerhouse nations in Germany and Italy. Both teams are capable of winning it all, but will have to fight it out for top spot. Also featured are the Czech Republic and Denmark. These are two teams who were dealt a blow by the draw, but should still put up a respectable effort.
European Under-21 Championship Group C Preview
Focusing on two tournaments at once, this German team remains strong. Despite lacking the likes of Niklas Süle, Timo Werner and Joshua Kimmich, Germany still can boast a talented squad. Manager Stefan Kuntz doesn’t have an easy job, but reaching the knockout stages should be expected. The squad is balanced, with no real weaknesses on display. Expect this team to go very far, as this is yet another German side ready to compete at a major tournament.
Player to watch—Serge Gnabry
Fresh off a big move to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, Serge Gnabry will be a key player for a Germany team expected to deliver. The former Arsenal winger put together a great season with Werder Bremen, scoring 11 goals in 27 games. This squad is full of talent, but Gnabry will look to be the team’s x-factor. Alongside creators like Max Meyer, Mahmoud Dahoud and Max Arnold, Gnabry should thrive. Expected to be loaned out by Bayern, this is an ideal opportunity for the winger to display his talents.
Runners-up in 2013, this might just be Italy’s year. In a squad headlined by giant goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, this Italy squad can compete against the likes of Germany and Spain. Five-times winners of the tournament, Italy have the quality to make it six. This tournament has a habit of producing future stars and in Italy’s case all-time legends such as Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Andrea Pirlo. If all goes to plan, this team has what it takes, but as seen at previous tournaments, things don’t always go as planned for the Azzurri.
Player to watch—Domenico Berardi
Arguably Italy’s biggest treat going forward, Berardi must produce on the big stage if his country is to progress beyond the group stages. The exciting forward is an impact player who experienced some injury problems with Sassuolo this past season. Now back at his best, he will be Italy’s main man going forward. Alongside Fiorentina winger Federico Bernardeschi, Berardi is an automatic selection for manager Luigi Di Biagio. Whether it be with goals or assists, expect him to influence every game in which he features.
In a group set to be dominated by two powerhouse nations, Czech Republic fans shouldn’t expect much, but in a tournament known for being unpredictable they could easily be a dark horse.
Manager Vítězslav Lavička arrives with a team set to play with the same mentality as Poland and Sweden. Teamwork and hard work will be key to any success over the next few weeks. Lacking in depth and raw talent, Czech Republic will have to fight for everything in a challenging group.
Player to watch—Patrik Schick
Soon to be a Juventus player, Patrik Schick will be a leading man for this Czech team. Making a name for himself playing for Sampdoria, Schick is a talented forward capable of impacting a game with individual brilliance. Garnering a £25 million price tag, this is definitely one player to keep an eye on.
Semi-finalists in 1992, Denmark enter in a similar situation to fellow group members Czech Republic. Manager Niels Frederiksen will lead this Denmark side into a difficult situation with the team lacking depth and star power. Expect Denmark to be tricky customers, but with a real lack of impact players, this team faces an uphill battle.
Player to watch—Marcus Ingvartsen
With Ajax star Kasper Dolberg not included in the squad, fans will look elsewhere for the goals. Nordsjælland striker Marcus Ingvartsen scored 23 goals in 35 games this past season, leading many to believe he could do some damage in the coming weeks. Scoring eight goals in just six games for the under-21’s, Ingvartsen looks deadly in front of goal.