Attentions may be turning towards the start of the 2009/10 club football season, but there’s still one major international youth tournament to take care of before we return to the week-to-week excitement of the clubs. Tuesday sees the start of the 2009 European Under-19 Championships in the Ukraine.
It’s been quite a summer for Germany. They took the Under-17 crown at the end of May before adding the Under-21 title to it in in June. It meant that for a while, they held all three of UEFA’s major youth titles. It was only to be brief though, as they have to relinquish their 2007 crown, having failed to qualify for this tournament.
The seven who have qualified to join the hosts are a mix of the experienced and the outsider. Spain, France and England will all harbour title ambitions, Turkey, Switzerland and Serbia will look to surprise, and Slovenia will almost look just to enjoy the competition. Below, we preview each team’s chances.
England had a terrible time in 2007, embarrassingly crashing out in the Group Stage of a competition they were expected to do well in. Brian Eastick’s 2009 generation are stronger both as a collective and physically, and many of the party finished runners-up to Spain in 2007’s Under-17 Finals. They almost strolled to the Ukraine, only losing to Serbia along the way, and in Daniel Welbeck have a player incredibly capable of taking them to glory. Manchester United have given their gifted teenager permission to play in the competition, and his goals will be crucial to their chances. Newcastle United’s Nile Ranger adds a freakish blend of size, pace and power, whilst Matthew James and Henri Lansbury keep things elegant and controlled in midfield. The squad has seen six withdrawals to club commitments, something which has disappointed Eastick.
Goalkeepers: Jason Steele (Middlesbrough FC), Declan Rudd (Norwich City FC).
Defenders: Gavin Hoyte (Arsenal FC), Matthew Briggs (Fulham FC), Joe Mattock (Leicester City FC), Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough FC), Kyle Walker (Sheffield United FC), Kieran Trippier (Manchester City FC).
Midfielders: Danny Drinkwater (Manchester United FC), Henri Lansbury (Arsenal FC), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Matthew James (Manchester United FC), Daniel Gosling (Everton FC), Andrew Tutte (Manchester City FC).
Forwards: Danny Welbeck (Manchester United FC), Nile Ranger (Newcastle United FC), Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa FC), Rhys Murphy (Arsenal FC).
This is Slovenia’s first finals, and whilst it will be a learning experience for them, they’re competitive and have some emerging talents. Haris Vukcic is a leading light of Newcastle United’s academy, and Vid Belec is a goalkeeper attached to Inter Milan. Otherwise not much is known about a team who pipped Holland to qualification on goal difference, but they have been given a slightly better chance of causing an upset or two by being drawn in the markedly weaker Group A. That said, they have an incredibly tough ask.
Goalkeepers: Franci Biček (NK Domžale), Matej Radan (NK Maribor).
Defenders: David Jerkovič (NK Triglav Kranj), Boban Jovič (NK Aluminij), Nejc Mevlja (NK Gorica), Anel Omerovič (AC Sparta Praha), Matej Rapnik (NK IB Ljubljana), Alen Vučkič (NK Domžale).
Midfielders: Matic Fink (NK IB Ljubljana), Dejan Lazarevič (Genoa CFC), Miha Mevlja (NK Gorica), Martin Milec (NK Aluminij), Rajko Rep (NK Celje), Haris Vučkič (Newcastle United FC).
Forwards: Leon Črnčič (NK Aluminij), Dejan Dimitrov (NK Triglav Kranj), Armend Sprečo (NK Maribor), Dejan Zadnikar (NK IB Ljubljana).
Prediction: Group Stage
The Swiss have a squad which has growing experience in their domestic Super League, but it is the start of the new season in that very league which has upset their preparations and therefore coach Claude Ryf. A number of players have joined the camp late and little time is available to ensure readiness for their competition opener. Ryf openly admits his is a team with few weaknesses but no major individual strengths, and that the development of each player into a difference maker is what will determine the Swiss chances in the Ukraine. Striker Orhan Mustafi is one who can be that difference, having broken into the Basel first team squad and an Under-21 international.
Goalkeepers: Oliver Klaus (FC Basel 1893), Christopher Meylan (FC Yverdon-Sports)
Defenders: François Affolter (BSC Young Boys), Fabio Daprelà (Grasshopper-Club), Rolf Feltscher (Grasshopper-Club), Raphael Koch (FC Solothurn), Philippe Koch (FC Zürich), Michael Lang (FC St. Gallen)
Midfielders: Amir Abrashi (FC Winterthur), Vullnet Basha (Grasshopper-Club), Bruce Lalombongo (Grasshopper-Club), Alexandre Pasche (BSC Young Boys), Daniel Unal (FC Basel 1893), Alain Wiss (FC Luzern), Sébastien Wüthrich (Neuchâtel Xamax FC)
Forwards: Admir Mehmedi (FC Zürich), Orhan Mustafi (FC Basel 1893), Marco Schönbächler (FC Zürich)
Prediction: Group Stage
It’s the turn of the Ukraine to bear the pressure of the host nation, something which may be beneficial to young talents harbouring hopes of a senior national team squad place in three years when they co-host Euro 2012. Coach Yuri Kalitvinsev is looking for his young charges to make the Semi-Finals and they have a good chance, backed by captain Kyrylo Petrov and leading goalscorer Dmytro Korkishko. The core of the squad comes from Dynamo Kyiv (particularly), Shakhtar Donetsk and Dnipro, which means most of the squad will be familiar with others and will help build understanding and spirit.
Squad Currently Unavailable
Regularly found at youth tournaments, France won this competition in 2005, but they were blessed with a generation including title-winning Bordeaux duo Yoann Gourcuff and Yoan Gouffran. The 2009 crop aren’t as well-known as they might be – Mamadou Sakho aside – but they feel they have a chance, with a typically French blend of athleticism and skill. Likely captain Sakho embodies this more than most, but Ryad Boudebouz and Emmanuel Riviere are also amongst those who can impress. Damien Le Tallec was part of a poor French Under-17 campaign two years ago with this squad but coach Jean Gallice is confident he has his best players available.
Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Keita (FC Girondins de Bordeaux), Rémi Pillot (AS Nancy-Lorraine).
Defenders: Sébastien Corchia (Le Mans UC 72), Abdel El Kaoutari (Montpellier Hérault SC), Tripy Makonda (Paris Saint-Germain FC), Alfred N’Diaye (AS Nancy-Lorraine), Mickaël Nelson (Montpellier Hérault SC) Mathieu Peybernes (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Mamadou Sakho (Paris Saint-Germain FC).
Midfielders: Ryad Boudebouz (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Yacine Brahimi (Stade Rennais FC), Frédéric Bulot (AS Monaco FC), Josua Guilavogui (AS Saint-Etienne), Yann M’Vila (Stade Rennais FC), Maxime Partouche (Paris Saint-Germain FC).
Forwards: Magaye Gueye (RC Strasbourg), Damien Le Tallec (Stade Rennais FC), Emmanuel Rivière (AS Saint-Etienne).
Prediction: Group Stage
Serbia have had quite a run in youth football recently, regularly making the final stages of youth tournaments, and not only are they very much a threat to be reckoned with, but in Danijel Aleksic they have a goalscorer who can shoot them to the title. Despite being deprived of five key players, Aleksic – who has been on the wanted list of Europe’s elite since finishing top goalscorer in the 2007 Under-17s – means Serbia’s chances are still remarkably strong. Lokomotiv Moscow stopped Milan Milanovic is impressive, whilst Manchester United-bound Adem Ljajic will be one of the most keenly observed.
Goalkeepers: Nikola Matek (OFK Beograd), Aleksandar Kirovski (FK Zemun).
Defenders: Gojko Ivković (FC Viking Stavanger), Miloš Cvetković (FK Zemun), Milan Milanović (FC Lokotomiv Moskva), Aleksandar Miljković (FK Teleoptik), Filip Pjević (OFK Beograd), Dejan Blagojević (FK Zemun), Nemanja Crnoglavac (FK Zemun).
Midfielders: Adem Ljajić (FK Partizan), Filip Djuričić (FC Herenveen), Mihajlo Cakić (FK Zemun), Uroš Matić (MFK Košice), Milan Pršo (FK Rad), Slobodan Medojević (FK Vojvodina).
Forwards: Danijel Aleksić (FK Vojvodina), Nemanja Milić (OFK Beograd), Milan Bubalo (FK Indjija).
Spain are probably favourites for any international tournament they enter these days, for they are everybody’s team du jour. However, theirs is a squad in this tournament which arguably deserves that tag. The core of it so impressively won the 2007 Under-17 title and whilst Bojan Krkic has graduated further and captain Ignacio Camacho has pulled out injured, they are still able to call on David De Gea, Fran Merida, Thiago Alcantara and Pulido amongst many, many talented players. Merida and Murcia forward Dani Aquino provided most of the goals during qualifying and whilst Merida is suspended for the first game, they will be central to the Spanish chances of adding another trophy to their shimmering youth cabinet.
Goalkeepers: David de Gea (Club Atlético de Madrid), Diego Mariño (Villarreal CF).
Defenders: Pulido (Club Atlético de Madrid), Marc Bartra (FC Barcelona), David Rochela (RC Deportivo La Coruña), Nacho (Real Madrid CF), Marcos Alonso Mendoza (Real Madrid CF), Sergio Canales (Real Racing Club), Alberto Morgado (Real Sociedad de Fútbol), Mario Gaspar Pérez (Villarreal CF).
Midfielders: Francisco Mérida (Arsenal FC), Ramiro Mayor (Zaragoza), Oriol Romeu (FC Barcelona), Thiago Alcántara (FC Barcelona), José Luis Mato (RC Celta de Vigo), Óscar Sielva (RCD Espanyol), Iago Falque (Juventus), Javier Ros (Real Sociedad de Fútbol), Jordi (Villarreal CF).
Forwards: Carlos Monje (RC Deportivo La Coruña), Raúl Ruiz Matarín (Hércules CF), Daniel Aquino (Real Murcia CF).
Led by former international defender Ogun Temizkanoglu, Turkey have strong hopes of a Semi Final berth, and even senior coach Fatih Terim is taking a keen interest. There is an air of confidence about the camp, which is well justified, with a strong youth record and Bursasport’s Sercan Yıldırım, who scored 11 goals in the Turkish top flight last season. There is a strong Galatasaray presence, but they will have to perform at their best in every game in what is an undeniably tough group.
Goalkeepers: Metin Uçar (Gençlerbirliği SK), Emirhan Ergün (Galatasaray SK), Bayram Olgun (MKE Ankaragücü).
Defenders: Özgür Çek (Ankaraspor AŞ), Fatih Serkan Kurtuluş (Galatasaray SK), Murat Akça (Galatasaray SK), Çetin Güngör (Galatasaray SK), Sinan Osmanoğlu (Galatasaray SK), Serdar Aziz (Bursaspor), Rıdvan Şimşek (Beşiktaş JK).
Midfielders: Furkan Özçal (Kayserispor), Soner Aydoğdu (Gençlerbirliği SK), Eren Albayrak (Bursaspor), Umut Sözen (Ankaraspor AŞ), Necip Uysal (Beşiktas JK), Uğur Parlak (Dardanelspor SK).
Forwards: Sercan Yıldırım (Bursaspor), Tunay Torun (Hamburger SV), Onur Ayık (Werder Bremen).
Eurosport will, as ever, be covering this tournament live. The following matches are live:
All times Local (CET+1)
July 21st – Ukraine vs Slovenia – 19.00
July 21st – Turkey vs Spain – 20.30
July 24th – Serbia vs Spain – 18.30
July 24th – Ukraine vs England – 19.30
July 27th – Spain vs France – 17.00
July 27th – Switzerland vs Ukraine – 19.00
July 30th – Semi Final 1 – TBC
July 30th – Semi Final 2 – TBC
Aug 2nd – Final – 16.30
You can keep up to date with the tournament right here at footballprospects, as well as at UEFA.com.