2009 UEFA European Under-21 preview (Part 1)

by Dexy Longshot

Monday, June 15th, 2009
 

Two years ago, I was sitting on my Jack Jones in The Tower Tavern in London’s West End watching one of the most nail-biting penalty shoot outs I can ever remember. It was the Under 21 semi and England, after out-playing Holland for 120 minutes we were on the verge of the final against little fancied Serbia. Up stepped Anton Ferdinand to tuck away pen No 13 for us, yes, 13! It was 12-12 sudden death. Little Ferdi missed, Holland’s Boy Waterman didn’t & Mark Noble cried; I felt like doing the same.

2 years on and Iron Noble is aiming to go one step further in this year’s championship being held in Sweden. 8 teams, 2 groups, the 2 top 2 go through to the semis and final.

Our chances this time? Well, we are currently 3rd faves behind Spain & Italy but I still think we have an outside chance. Stuart Pearce, no stranger to a shoot-out is in charge again and under the guidance of the Messiah Fabio, he will fancy it, Psycho yesterday said The Boys are “Ready for Action!”

Our squad on paper is just as impressive as anyone else’s, despite the loss of Danny Welbeck & Captain Steven Taylor who was rock 2 years ago putting away a penalty when he could hardly stand.

This year, The Young Lions won their group with ease but were tested by the Taffs in the play-off before eventually running out 3-2 winners. We tore Azerbaijan to pieces last week 7-0 which will do wonders for our morale, one of our best weapons this time round. Pearce has instilled a real belief in this squad of players and with his on-going communication with a teacher like Capello, I really think this could be the difference come the latter stages. We have plenty of experience in Villa’s Milner & Agbonlahor and Walcott will want to show everyone he has the right to play for both 3 Lions camps this summer.

In our group we face Finland before favourites Spain and then Ze Germans. In the other pot are 5-time winners Italy, East Europeans Serbia & Belarus along with hosts Sweden. Here’s part one of the team rundowns with the youngsters to watch out for. I’ll be doing the 2nd group tomorrow.

Germany

Coach Horst Hrubesch

Cliché time, strong, robotic, “EFFICIENT!” Don’t we just love em & they always seem to sneak glory in the later stages of finals don’t they? Not at this level, despite a trio of U21’s finals in the early 80’s they have yet to lift the trophy. They lost 1-0 to Moldova in qualifying and only topped their group on goal difference over Israel. The jammy Krauts then fluked it in a play-off against highly rated France scoring in the last minute of the 2nd game in Metz. Let’s hope that’s where their luck runs out.

Dexy’s Diamond

Rouwen Hennings

In an average team, Rouwen Hennings stands out with 7 goals in qualifying. They did whoop lame-arsed Luxembourg 6-0 & 7-0 though so I wouldn’t ink him on any top scorers slips just yet.

Finland

Coach Markku Kanervas

The Finns saw of Denmark & the Jocks in qualifying to make it to their first Under 21’s finals. They made hard work of it in the play-off after topping group 6 with 5 wins on the trot at the start of the campaign, only 2 goals in the last moments of the play-off secured their passage to Sweden with the game going into extra-time & penalties. Probably the weakest squad in the group, they’ll be Finnished by the 23rd!

Dexy’s Diamond

Tim Sparv

Tim Sparv of Halmstad scored 3 in qualifying, 1 in each of 3 1-0 wins. He will be facing his old Southampton teammate Theo tonight. Says it all really, the hopes of a Finnish nation resting on a lanky Southampton reject’s shoulders.

Spain

Juan Ramon Lopez (Ex Galactico honcho)

It’s no surprise that Spain are the tournament favourites, they have previous pedigree with wins in 86 & 98 and plenty of established stars in the squad, just like the big boys team & the world’s best club side. The Spanish are almost untouchable at this level letting in just 2 goals when they won their group with a 100% record, a feat no one else managed in qualification. I say “almost” untouchable, read on…. They had a slight wobble in the play-off against the Swiss of all people, losing 2-1 in the 1st leg. In the return in Spain, it got worse; they went a goal down but pulled it back to 2-1 in the 95th minute! Captain Raul Garcia got the decider in extra time sealing their place in the finals. Also last week, the Barca heavyweights of Pique and Busquets were called up into the full squad for the Confederations Cup in South Africa, along with Valencia’s Juan Mata. With these big players missing, maybe it won’t all be rain in Spain on the plain sailing when it comes to the pressure games.

Dexy’s Diamond

Jose’ Manual Jurado

Got 4 in qualifying but if he can hold his nerve, Barca’s young Bojan Krkic can be the superstar of the tournament. With 10 goals last season (mostly from the bench), Bojan’s rise to stardom started 2 years ago when he broke Raul’s La Liga record for a debut season. This rise has come at a price, he pulled out of Spain’s Euro squad due to fatigue & his mental state has been in question: Is it a case of too much too young for the young Spaniard?

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  • jimmythegent

    I think Spain are gonna p*ss it. Did anyone see the “big boys” last night. Total football.

  • Darren

    I’ve been reading loads recently on how good Jack Wilshire is, if he is that good why isn’t he in the Under squad? Dexy, you saw him against Liverpool, how good was he?

  • dexylongshot

    Mustard, truly Mustard. I’ll get round to a blog on him over the next few months. I’ve never seen a such a virtuoso performance from someone so young. I’m sticking my neck out here but I really think he’ll take over Fabregas in a couple of years. He is meant to be a left footer but he was spreading the play with either foot. World Class. Player of the tournament 2018 world cup, when we win it.

  • dexylongshot

    1-1 at half time after a moment of madness from Mancienne. Poo!

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    quality, 2-1, hardly had an attack in the 2nd half. 10 men, 3 points, good start!

  • dexylongshot

    Yep, that will do although we wasn’t at our best. Pearce’s interview was something else, he’s gone all Fabio. Team spirit that, determined, it’s if he does not expect failure at all. C”MOOOOONNN!!!!

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    class, we can win this!

    Gibbs was outstanding as was Walcott from the bench, master stroke!!

  • dexylongshot

    Wicked stuff, the whole team played brilliantly, nulifying the threat in the first half, closing down the play in midfield. Milner and Johnson were chasing back & Muamba chasing everything. The only shot Hart had to make was a dodgy back-pass. @nd half Spain get a bit edgy and result to long distance pot shots, they push up to half-way line and then Pearce unleashes Walcott, eager to please his boss with all that space behind the Spainish defence. Adios!!!!

  • dexylongshot

    Semis here we come and i mean that in both senses. An easy peasy draw with Germany last night and we had the b-team out. We didn’t either break sweat. A draw was enough and ensured the Spanish went out, we are certainly on a roll now and I really fancy our chances now. Of the B team, Rodwell did himself plenty of favours with an assured display for such a nipper, it will be a hard job to displace Muamba for the holding midfield roll though. I f we do go 1 up against whoever in the next game, don’t be surprised if he comes on the close the shop up. In Pearcy we trust, that Fabio magic must be rubbing of nicely. I just wish a few pundits got behind him from the start, I wanted to strangle Adrian Duhram last week on talksport saying he had no idea about running the England team.

  • dexylongshot

    1-0
    1st minute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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