2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship - Germany - Serbia Preview: Hrubesch's side looking for solid start
Image credit: Kicker

Germany will be hoping for a strong start to their 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship campaign, though they face a stern test from the Serbians.

Form guide

The Germans blitzed the qualifiers, winning all but two games, before going on to comfortably beat Ukraine by a 5-0 aggregate score in the play-offs.

Serbia, on the other hand, snuck through due to a superior head-to-head record with Belgium.

An equally dramatic game against Spain, which included two goals after the 92nd minute, they managed to secure a 2-1 win and a place in the finals.

The sides kicked-off the 2006 edition, with Germany securing a 1-0 win. That proved to be a false dawn for them, however, as they finished bottom of the group.

Players who could spring a surprise

Germany's squad is lined with first-team talents from around the continent, and have arguably the deepest squad at the tournament.

However, Philipp Hofmann is a name that won't be well-known to many outside of German football.

The 1. FC Kaiserslautern striker doesn't score many goals at club level, and only notched up six goals this season in over 30 games.

That's been a theme of his career, a regular starter but he has never managed to score over eight times in a campaign.

This all seems to change when he pulls on a Germany shirt and his double against England took him to an impressive nine goals in 15 under-21 matches.

A physical presence and a strong right foot, Hofmann is an old-fashioned number nine and his ability to link the play will be crucial in Germany going forward.

He will bring the top talents of Kevin Volland and Maximilian Meyer into the game, as well as being a threat from Nico Schulz and Julian Korb's crosses.

There are more skillful players who will catch the eye for Serbia but Aleksandar Pešić plays a very similar role to Hofmann.

Like his opposite number, Pešić didn't manage to score with any regularity for Toulouse this year - managing six goals and six assists in 34 games.

He is a tall figure, has a keen eye for goal and will look to be the focal point for their attacks.

Despite not scoring many goals in Ligue 1, his stock his risen considerably and a further three goals and assists in the qualifiers have done his reputation no harm.

What they're saying

Horst Hrubesch was taking nothing for granted in the run up to the game: "We have a tough group. We get nothing for free."

There were no doubts about what he wanted to achieve with the squad, "We want to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio, no question."

Kevin Volland shared his coach's thoughts, saying it was a "childhood dream" to play in such a tournament.

He too wasn't taking the game lightly, despite Germany's tag as tournament favourites: "The first game is like a final. We must win to survive the group."

"Horst Hrubesch always has an open ear for every player in the squad," the attacker commented.

One player on the opposition, is very familiar with the German squad. Borussia Dortmund midfielder, Milos Jojić, is a key player for his nation.

Lazar Marković and Matija Nastasić will not make the trip to the Czech Republic, though this is something that doesn't worry Jojić.

"Of course, we would have been stronger with them," he admits. "But this generation is full of talented players. This squad knocked out Spain."

Like everyone playing in the tournament, a place in the Olympics is the goal: "If I have to name one main objective, it is qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio."

On Germany, Jojić claimed that they are "a strong team", and also can be considered as "one of the big favourites for the tournament".

Referee

Javier Estrada from Spain will be in charge of Wednesday evening's game. The 39-year-old official has vast experience in the youth tournaments.

Estrada refereed last year's UEFA European under-19 Championship final, where Germany triumphed against Portugal.

He officiated in two other games during the tournament but his biggest continental clash came this year, when he took charge of the Czech Republic-Latvia UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier.

Back in Spain, he was the man in the middle for Supercopa de España first leg as Real Madrid and their city rivals Atlético drew 1-1.

Predicted line-ups

Germany: (4-2-3-1) ter Stegen; Korb, Knoche, Ginter, Schulz; Can, Leitner; Volland, Meyer, Gnabry; Hofmann.

Serbia: (4-2-3-1) Dmitrović; Pantić, Ćirković, Petković, Petrović; Kovačević, Jojić; Srnić, Čaušić, Djuričić; Pešić.

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