2016 UEFA European under-19 Championship - Germany vs Italy Preview: Can the young guns repeat first-team feats?

Will die Nationalmannschaft be able to get another one over on their bitter rivals?

2016 UEFA European under-19 Championship - Germany vs Italy Preview: Can the young guns repeat first-team feats?
Image credit: VAVEL

Despite being midday on a Monday, a capacity crowd of 50,000 is expected to be in the Mercedes-Benz Arena for the opening 2016 UEFA under-19 European Championship game. The hosts, Germany will face Italy in a titanic Group A battle to kick things off.

As it is with tournament football, getting off to a good start is imperative and will be what both teams are targeting come kick-off.

Germans hoping to set the tone

The two-time winners, as a unified nation, will be throwing everything at their opponents in the group stage to show they mean business on home soil. After winning the 2014 tournament, Germany have a taste for success at this level once more and the conveyor belt of talent continues to fuel that desire.

The key players will need to perform if a positive result is to be obtained against a strong Italian side, which includes some who have played their part in the Bundesliga. Benjamin Henrichs is the most notable, although Suat Serdar - his midfield partner - is likely to have a similar influence in the middle of the park.

They will set up in the usual 4-2-3-1 German formation, with the aforementioned duo anchoring midfield. In attack, Philipp Ochs will be the go-to man on the wings to try and create a chance for the other forward players. Jannes Horn is another threat down the left, and both Horn and Ochs could form a formidable partnership on that flank.

Germany won the only meeting between these two sides at this age level eight years ago in the 2006 edition's final. Lars and Sven Bender, Ron-Robert Zieler and Ömer Toprak were all part of that side, and is further evidence that these tournaments unearth the stars of the future.

Italy aiming for opening game win

For the Italians, the chance to avenge the 2008 defeat and that of their older counterparts may play a part in the pre-game preparations. They have, arguably, the tournament's most talked about player in Manuel Locatelli; plenty of pressure has already been placed on the young man's shoulders.

The youngster is key for his side, usually playing as the more adventurous of the two defensive midfielders deployed in Italy's 4-4-2 set-up. He may take inspiration from Alberto Aquilani's performances in Italy's 2003 triumph at this level. Giorgio Chiellini was the other star name to come from that victorious crop.

The Italians narrowly made it through qualifying, finishing runners-up to England in the initial stage. They drew with the English and Finland but a win against FYR Macedonia proved enough. The elite round began with victories over Israel and Switzerland, and a dramatic 2-2 draw with Turkey saw them through in the end.

Together as one. | Image credit: DFB.de
Together as one. | Image credit: DFB.de

What they're saying

Guido Streichsbier believes his side will need "a good mix of intelligence and powerful attacking" in their play to get past their opponents.

He singled out Manuel Locatelli of AC Milan, someone he believes is a "top player" and one who "is extraordinarily good at fast counterattacks".

On the Italian side, their head coach, Paolo Vanoli admitted his players "can't wait to walk on the pitch and play this match against Germany".

While the players are keen to get going, Vanoli is still mulling over tactical decisions. "There's still a night to sleep on it," he said.

Predicted line-ups

Germany under-19: (4-2-3-1) Reimann; Fechner, Boeder, Gimber, Horn; Serdar, Henrichs; Besuchkow, Mehlem, Ochs; Teuchert.

Italy under-19: (4-4-2) Meret; Ghiglione, Romagna, Coppolaro, Dimarco; Felicioli, Barella, Locatelli, Picchi; Favilli, Panico.