Group B of the European Under-21 Championships offers some mouth-watering ties as Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia are pitted against each other. The first of the group matches comes on Thursday as Spain take on Russia; Germany meet the Netherlands on the same day.
In Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, Group B hosts three of the tournament favourites. The Spaniards are holders of the crown and will be looking to emulate their predecessor’s success at this year’s competition. While both the German and Dutch squads are littered with talent, the Russians have also won the tournament in the past and will be tough to beat.
Spain and Russia kick of proceedings in the so-called “group of death”. The Russians, even though they are a top class outfit, will surely be the underdogs in this contest as they will have to find a way of stopping players such as Isco, Sergio Canales, Cristian Tello and Iker Muniain.
Russia will have to engineer a way past a Spain team that has yet to taste defeat in its last 10 games and a backline that includes players such as Barcelona’s Marc Bartra and Martin Montoya, before tackling Manchester United’s star goalkeeper David De Gea.
However, the Russians will be confident coming into the tournament as well as they possess a good mix of talent and experience. In Alan Dzagoev they have a player who played and impressed at the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, while striker Fedor Smolov is sure to ask some questions of the Spanish defenders after he notched seven goals in nine appearances in the build up to the tournament.
The second game of the evening offers up one of the big clashes of the competition as Germany come up against the Netherlands. Similar to the Spaniards, Rainer Adrion’s German team come into the tournament off the back of a 10-game unbeaten run, winning eight of those fixtures and with players such as Emre Can, Bernd Leno, Tony Jantschke and in-form Nurnberg striker Sebastian Polter in their ranks they have every right to be confident going into the game.
But the Dutch squad looks a well-rounded outfit, losing just one of their last 10 games. The German defenders will have to keep a watchful eye on nippy winger Memphis Depay, who will not hesitate to come forward and hit shots. Jordy Clasie will offer added resistance ahead of his defence as a defensive midfielder for the Dutch and goals shouldn’t be hard to come by with Luuk de Jong, Ola John and Georginio Wijnaldum offering plenty of attacking threat.
The Under 21’s most competitive group is shaping up nicely and promises to deliver quality in abundance. Group B offers the style and elegance of Spain and the strength and power of the Netherlands, which can only be equalled by Russia, rounded off nicely with the usual German efficiency. However, with all the quality on display in this group, it is surely too close to call.
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