England Under-21s face Germany on Tuesday in the European Championship semifinal, with the winner assured a spot in the final.
The hope delivered by an Under-20s World Cup triumph this month in South Korea has sparked a sense of ambition in our national football once again.
England reached the knockout stages after winning their group, concluding with a win over Poland 3-0 on Thursday. While Germany were best runners-up, losing 1-0 to Italy in their last group game.
Who must England be wary of
Germany have been known for their youthful talent ever since there European Championship disaster in 2000, where they finished bottom of their group with one point. Since then the Germans have overhauled their infrastructure and produced World Cup winners in the space of fourteen years. The next group of possible champions could be on the pitch on Thursday.
Serge Gnabry of Bayern Munich is the spearhead of the German attack. He has only scored once so far in the tournament, but bagged a hat-trick for the senior team in late 2016. The 21 year-old had an impressive season with Werden Bremen managing 11 goals before his move to the Bundesliga champions.
Another danger man is Max Meyler, who scored in the 2-0 group stage win over the Czech Republic. The 21 year-old has already a wealth of experience with 155 appearances for Schalke. His technical attributes help Germany control possession and will be a formidable opponent for England to face.
Midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud is the anchor to Germany’s fluidity, roaming forward to start attacks. The Syrian born player will begin next season with Borussia Dortmund after impressing with Borussia Monchengladbach for the last three years. England’s midfield will have to keep close tabs on him to shut down Germany’s attacks early.
However, Germany, for all their possession, do have their weaknesses as they struggled to create chances when losing against Italy. If England press and take the game to the favourites, an upset can happen.
England’s hopeful finalists
The young Lions are going into the game as underdogs, but host a wealth of talent in their starting 11.
Demarai Gray put in a impressive performance against hosts Poland, scoring the opener and setting up another. His pace and power has been on display in a Leicester City shirt, but has managed only one Premier League goal. The midfield dynamo of the team James Ward- Prowse is captain and leader of the squad, providing perfect delivery from dead balls. The 23 year-old has caught of eye of many during his 22 starts for Southampton last season. Another danger man in the England ranks is fellow Southampton player Nathan Redmond. He has started all three group games scoring one. The tricky winger has been an ever-presence in the Saints line up with 50 appearances this season.
Despite the odds stacked against England Under-21s, they have the ability to match the Germans for pace and power. Germany, managed by Stefan Kuntz, reached this stage last European Championship’s and have the ability to do so again. Yet, the likes of Redmond and Gray will cause problems as they have in the group stage. If they are on fire and the defence of Mason Holgate, Calum Chambers and Ben Chilwell stay calm, then England Under-21s could reach their first European Championship final since 1984.