England kick-off their European Under 21 Championship campaign tomorrow with Spain their opponents.
With such stars as Juan Manuel Mata, Javi Martinez, Bojan Krkic and Manchester United target David De Gea included in the squad, Spain will certainly be no pushovers and England are in for a tough opening fixture.
After Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll were eliminated from the inital 40-man squad and Micah Richards has withdrawn through injury, England have been significantly weakened but still have the talent to give Spain a difficult challenge. Spain and Barcelona star Sergio Busquets has withdrawn from the squad following his promotion to the senior side.
England are currently ranked 1st in Europe at Under 21 level by their previous record, although as is the case with youth football, teams are changing constantly as players grow and therefore rankings are not a fair reflection of the teams. Nevertheless England do have a strong squad boasting players such as Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson who recently joined Manchester United and Liverpool respectively. Despite England’s ranking, Spain are the hot favourites for the tournament.
England finished runners-up in 2009, being thrashed 4-0 by Germany in the final. In 2007 they were beaten 13-12 by Netherlands in the semi-finals on penalties where the match was notable for Steven Taylor’s heroic penalty, being injured while taking it.
The last meeting between the two sides was back in 2009 where England won 2-0 courtesy of goals from Frazier Campbell and James Milner.
A probable England line-up would see Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck partner each other upfront due to their impressive records last season in the domestic league.
Frank Fielding and Ryan Bertrand will be the lesser-known names of the side which also could include Tottenham’s Danny Rose, Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba, Everton’s Jack Rodwell and Manchester United’s Chris Smalling.
My prediction: Spain Under 21s 1-1 England Under 21s. What is yours?
The game will be televised live on Sky Sports tomorrow and you can catch a match report right here on The Youth Radar in the coming days.