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Published on June 12th, 2011 | by Sportingly Better Tipster

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UEFA European Under 21 Championship – Football Predictions

The 2011 European Under 21 Championship is underway in Denmark, with Spain set to dominate another international tournament.

Spain are in Group B along with England and the two favourites square it off on Sunday in a game neither side can afford to lose, especially with a decent looking Czech Republic side also to contend with later in the group stage. The Ukraine complete the group.

Hosts Denmark are in Group A along with Switzerland, Belarus and Iceland.

Qualification

Group A

  • Denmark – Qualified as hosts.
  • Belarus – Qualified as second best placed side, after finishing behind Scotland in Group 10. Beat Italy 3-2 on aggregate with a 3-0 second leg victory.
  • Iceland – Qualified as second best placed side, after finishing behind Czech Republic in Group 5. Beat Scotland 4-2 with 2-1 victories in both play off legs.
  • Switzerland – Qualified top of Group 2 with 20 points. Comfortably beat Sweden 5-2 on aggregate in the play-offs.

Group B

  • Czech Republic – Qualified ahead of Iceland in Group 5. Beat Greece 5-0 on aggregate in the play-offs.
  • England – Qualified as second best placed side after finishing behind Greece in Group 9. Beat Romania 2-1 in the play offs.
  • Spain – Qualified as second best placed side after finishing behind the Netherlands in Group 4. Beat Croatia 5-1 on aggregate in the play-offs.
  • Ukraine – Qualified top of Group 8 with 16 points. Surprisingly beat the Netherlands on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate result in the play offs.

After last night’s games in Group A, Belarus defeated Iceland 2-0 to top the group and Switzerland beat hosts Denmark with the talented Shaqiri on the scoresheet with a fine individual goal. With Iceland and Belarus to come, Switzerland look well placed to not only qualify out of Group A but to also finish top. Interestingly Switzerland were the only side in Group A who finished first in their qualification group and 9 of their squad have been capped at senior level, which reflects the faith shown in selecting these promising pool of youngsters. The Swiss were also undefeated on the road in qualification Group 2.

Spain have the most talented squad in the Championship with the likes of Ander, Mata, De Gea, Muinan to name but a few and Luis Milla’s side are rightly favourites. England have not been helped with a number of withdrawals and injuries with Carroll, Wilshere, Gibbs and Micah Richards all not featuring for Stuart Pearce’s side. The Czech Republic are the only side to not lose during qualification and had an excellent defensive record along the way, but Spain’s dominance of football is set to continue, this time at under 21 level, with Switzerland and the Czech Republic likely to make the challenge.

Best Bet: Spain @2.62
Value Bets: Czech Republic @7.0 & Switzerland @6.0

Top 10 Players to Watch

  • Thiago Alcantara, 20, Barcelona – The Italian born, Spanish midfielder looks likely to be charged with being the natural successor to Xavi, with good vision and control on the ball. Thiago played 13 games last season for Barcelona and was on the bench for the Champions League final. Thiago is set for more game time next season.
  • Xherdan Shaqiri, 19, FC Basel – England fans will be well aware of the fleet footed winger who scored his first international goal against the Three Lions. Shaqiri has already 11 caps at senior level and the skillful wide man has been courted by a number of top European clubs.
  • Christian Eriksen, 19, Ajax – Danish playmaker Eriksen is the pin-up boy of Danish football and has dropped down to under 21 level for the first time. Eriksen scored 6 goals for Ajax in last seasons title winning campaign and was also named recently as the Dutch Football Talent of the Year. Another player who has been courted by Europe’s elite.
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson, 21, Hoffenheim – A lot of eyebrows were raised when Hoffenheim plucked Sigurdsson out of the Championship from Reading for £6 million last summer, but the Icelandic midfielder has shown significant promise and quality this season. Sigurdsson is not shy of a spectacular goal or two and his 10 goals and 2 assists has lead to being named Fans Player of the Year.
  • Tomas Pekhart, 22, FC Nurnberg –  Former Tottenham youngster Pekhart is a scoring sensation for the Czech Republic under 21s with 16 goals in 22 games. Pekhart is developing into a fine natural all round striker and finished the top goalscorer in qualification with 9 goals. Pekhart along with fellow forward Vaclav Kadlec are the main reasons Stuart Pearce makes the Czech Republic favourites for the tournament.
  • Daniel Sturridge, 21, Chelsea – Sturridge finished the season with a hugely successful loan spell for Owen Coyle at Bolton and goes into the championship in good form. Likely to feature more for Chelsea next season, a lot of England’s hopes of going far in the tournament will rest on the striker.
  • Phil Jones, 19, Blackburn Rovers – Manchester United bound Jones looks set to have a bright future and the young defender has had an impressive campaign for Blackburn this season. Manchester United fans may get to see a Smalling – Jones partnership at the heart of England’s backline. Jones can also play in central midfield.
  • Juan Mata, 23, Valencia – One of two World Cup winners in the Spanish side along with Javi Martinez of Athletic Bilbao, Mata is a product of the Real Madrid academy and can operate wide left or up front. A good fancy by many punters to finish top scorer in the Championship.
  • David De Gea, 20, Atletico Madrid – Another Manchester United bound player, De Gea is widely tipped to be the main challenger for Iker Casillas and the Spanish number 1 jersey in the coming years. De Gea has been a regularly for Atletico Madrid since breaking through into the first team aged 18.
  • Taras Stepanenko, 21, Shakhtar Donetsk – Stepanenko will captain the Ukraine in this summers competition and along with a number of Shakhtar players has plenty of Champions League experience. The defensive midfielder has also been called up to the senior squad.

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