With domestic European football coming towards an end for another season; it’s the turn of tournament football over the summer months to keep us all entertained until August. Last year we were treated to the European Championships in Ukraine and Poland which was great viewing. This summer, we’ll all be watching the best young players in Europe play out in the U21s European Championships in Israel, starting on June 5.
The 8 teams involved in this year’s tournament, are: Israel, England, Italy, Norway, Germany, Russia, Holland, Spain.
Germany, of course qualified for the tournament, along with 7 of Europe’s best under-21 sides. And Germany were drawn in the under-21 version of the group of death. Spain, Russia, Holland and of course Germany, were all drawn together in Group B. Sadly, some of Germany’s best young players, aren’t quite young enough anymore. The likes of Ilkay Gündoğan and Marco Reus have made their way into Germany’s senior side and therefore, haven’t been selected in the under-21 squad.
Here is the squad the Germans will be taking to Israel:
Oliver Baumann – SC Freiburg
Timo Horn – 1. FC Köln
Bernd Leno – Bayer Leverkusen
Matthias Ginter – SC Freiburg
Sead Kolasinac – FC Schalke 04
Shkodran Mustafi – Sampdoria
Antonio Rüdiger – VfB Stuttgart
Lasse Sobiech – SpVgg Greuther Fürth
Oliver Sorg – SC Freiburg
Stefan Thesker – 1899 Hoffenheim
Emre Can – Bayern München
Christian Clemens – 1. FC Köln
Patrick Funk – FC St. Pauli
Patrick Herrmann – Bor. Mönchengladbach
Lewis Holtby – Tottenham Hotspur
Tony Jantschke – Bor. Mönchengladbach
Christoph Moritz – FC Schalke 04
Sebastian Rode – Eintracht Frankfurt
Sebastian Rudy – 1899 Hoffenheim
Pierre-Michel Lasogga – Hertha BSC
Peniel Mlapa – Bor. Mönchengladbach
Sebastian Polter – 1. FC Nürnberg
Kevin Volland – 1899 Hoffenheim
With every squad in the tournament, there are some standout players. The likes of Lewis Holtby and Bernd Leno bring great experience to a mostly inexperienced squad that Germany have assembled. These two players have already impressed greatly in the Bundesliga and in Europe over the last few years. Germany has a squad of many talented players, but with only a couple of standout players; I don’t know whether manager Rainer Adrion will be able to achieve even more European success for German football in Israel. I feel most of the 7 teams in the tournament have better squads overall, than Germany.
The main favourites for the title, along with Germany, are England, Spain, Holland and Italy. Each of these sides has almost full squads of well know, and incredibly talented young players. I’ve somehow been able to narrow down the 5 players to watch from these 4 teams, and here they are:
England players to watch
(F) Wilfred Zaha, (F) Thomas Ince, (M) Jonjo Shelvey, (D) Steven Caulker, (GK) Jack Butland
Italy players to watch
(F) Mattia Destro, (F) Stephan El Shaarawy, (F) Lorenzo Insigne, (M) Marco Verratti, (D) Mattio De Sciglio
Holland players to watch
(F) Luis Castaignos, (M) Adam Maher, (M) Kevin Strottman, (D) Ricardo Van Rhijn, (D) Stefan De Vrij
Spain players to watch
(F) Rodrigo, (F) Muniain, (M) Isco, (D) Marc Bartra, (GK) David De Gea
These are my 20 top players to watch in the tournament. Some of them may not start, like Holland’s Adam Maher who is just 19 years old but is already being proclaimed as the Dutch Xavi. But I am confident that all of these players will show their talents on the world stage.
Regardless of the lack of hope in Germany from the German fans; I can’t hold back my excitement over this tournament. The talent on display will show all football fans what we should be looking forward to watching week-in and week-out in the years to come. Many of the players already play for some of Europe’s biggest sides but, like with Euro 2012, I am confident that most of these players will impress in Israel, and be quickly snapped up by Europe’s elite. This is the future of European football and we should all be very, very excited.