Saturday marks the second round of group games in the European Under-17 Championships in Germany, and headlining the fixtures is a tasty clash between the hosts and their long-time rivals England.
More on that match in a moment though. Wednesday’s start to the tournament was one of introductory jousting, with the teams getting a firm footing in their first outing and trying not to lose their opening group match. It was wet across all venues, and, indeed, only one team ended up defeated after one round. Spain vs Italy was the main attraction, but finished in a disappointing goalless draw, although not for the lack of trying from the Spanish. England and Holland drew one apiece in Gera, and a late French goal saved their blushes against Switzerland. The evening’s televised game saw Germany come back from a goal behind to beat Turkey 3-1.
The stalemates of midweek make the weekend’s fixtures interesting. Winners will have a great chance of progression, whilst those defeated may have one final chance to get through next Tuesday. We get underway at 1200 CET (noon) live on Eurosport with a rematch of last year’s Final, as Spain meet France. Real Madrid forward Pablo Sarabia will be fit and ready to play after a knock against the Italians, and coach Ginés Meléndez is confident that the holders can get in the wins column at the second time of asking:
“The performance against Italy was good. The only thing missing was a goal. The team will not change much because we are going to stick to our philosophy.”
“I don’t know much about the (French) team but the coach is a good friend. I expect a very good game – like a final. We will have more of the ball but the result will be decided on small details.”
In Torgau, Italy and Switzerland complete the other Group A fixture with a 1400 CET kickoff, and both teams can be encouraged from positive results in their opening games. Azzurri coach Pasquale Salerno is expecting a tight affair:
“We’ve talked about Switzerland’s strengths and weaknesses and have made some adjustments during training. They send a lot of players forward in possession, but are extremely good at keeping men behind the ball when defending.”
Despite having a great head-to-head record against the Italians, Swiss manager Dany Ryser is more concerned with keeping mistakes to a minimum and giving themselves a chance against an experienced and savvy outfit. Neither team are affected by injury.
In Group B, an impressive Holland team take on Turkey with one eye on putting themselves into a prime position for a Semi-Final berth. They started the tournament on fire with an early goal against England from captain Oguzhan Ozyakup, but tired and eventually allowed their opponents a deserved point. They have no squad worries, whereas Turkey do, in a game they must win to avoid being the first team eliminated from the competition. Star winger Gokhan Tore of Chelsea will miss out after being unfortunately sent off for two cautions against Germany, whilst Muhammet Demir, who featured in the competition last year, is seriously struggling with a knee injury and will miss out.
The marquee fixture of the day, carried live by Eurosport at 1400 CET, is Germany vs England. Both teams drew their opener but neither will be holding back in Jena, where a crowd of almost 10,000 is expected for the second Nationalmannschaft match in a row. Germany are very well-drilled, work well as a team, and have a few game-changers, whilst England may have the tournament’s star power and most prolific attack on paper.
It was substitutions which swung the game for each first time around, and both coaches are likely to make full use of their 18-man squads to keep things fresh and explore alternative options. For Germany, this may mean a start for striker Lennart Thy, whilst England’s John Peacock has revealed he intends to rotate even more, perhaps introducing Jonjo Shelvey, Ryan Tunnicliffe, and Louis Lang into the starting eleven.
As mentioned, Eurosport’s live matches are:
1200 CET – Spain vs France
1400 CET – Germany vs England
A full review of Day Two will follow the action.
All managerial quotes from UEFA.com