Madueke mauls and Georgia go through: UEFA U-21 EURO, Matchday 3
Wingers on the agenda plus a look at the latter stages. Rattle through MD3 with us.
Had you told us a week ago that Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium would all be on their way home after the group stage, with Georgia and Israel in the quarter-finals, would we have believed you? Mostly, yeah. We discussed as much on our preview podcast.
Germany. They may be a powerhouse of youth international football and the champions from 2021, but their squad is distinctly average (at best) across key areas of the pitch, compounded by strange team selection and tactical decisions. Them failing to get out of their group comes as no shock. Italy is a little more surprising, but they are totally devoid of attacking firepower. Belgium and the Netherlands? Meh. The former missed a few key players and the latter flattered to deceive individually and collectively.
But let’s not take away from what Georgia have achieved. They managed to top their group, powered by bristling atmospheres in packed-out stadiums, beating Portugal in the opening game then drawing to Belgium and the Netherlands. Israel, meanwhile, continue their recent surge by reaching a quarter-final, following on from the U-19 and U-20 sides that got to a final and semi-final at the EURO and World Cup respectively in the past year.
England and Spain breezed through, comfortable and comprehensive. France faced more resistance and were lucky to beat Italy in their opener, but are good value for their quarter-final place too. That said, they’ll be without the injured Michael Olise (hamstring) and Manu Koné (knee) for the rest of their tournament. Significant blows.
Remarkably, Switzerland managed to squeeze through even after losing 4-1 to France in their final group game.
The groups have set up an interesting if repetitive knockout stage. Ukraine will be dangerous in their bracket, particularly if the til-now-benched Mykhailo Mudryk gets a run out, but we can’t look past a France-Spain semi-final on that side. In the other bracket, England have a favourable run to a first final at this tournament since 2009.
One thing to note: Those that reach the semi-finals will qualify for next year’s Olympics Games in Paris. With three spots up for grabs, if France (qualified as hosts) and England (barred by correct anti-GB sentiment in Cymru and Scotland) reach the final four, there will be a play-off between the best-ranked quarter-finalists to determine the final qualifier. More football!
And one more thing to note: This is our final matchday round-up until after the tournament. We’re yet to decide if we’ll do a big Team of the Tournament write-up, as we did with the U-20 World Cup, or just pick out a handful of standout players, as we did with the U-17 EURO. We’re erring toward the former.
(YouTube voice: Let us know what you’d like in the comments.)
Anyway, enough of that, onto the actual round-up finally. This one includes a Khvicha alternative, a Leeds United player, one of France’s unheralded talents, and more.
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