DEBUT contributor Adam Goodwin (@AGJournalism) shares his thoughts on Saturday night’s Group B contest from the European U21 Championship between Spain and Macedonia.
Spain U21 v Macedonia U21 | Saturday 19:45 | Sky Sports
2013 European U21 champions Spain play their first group game in this year’s tournament against Macedonia on Saturday evening. And with Spain not participating in Confederations Cup action this year, U21 boss Albert Celades has a full pool of players to pick from.
Meanwhile, this is Macedonia’s debut in an U21 tournament. They topped their qualification group ahead of a France side that contained Celtic’s Moussa Dembele and Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko and Thomas Lemar.
When you look at Macedonia’s form and recent results heading into this game, some people may be surprised to see them priced up at huge 20/1 for this contest. They are unbeaten in over two years, their last defeat coming against Iceland in June 2015, and they’ve won their last five games without conceding a goal.
However, their form is slightly deceitful. Half of their victories in the last 24 months have come against Scotland and Northern Ireland, and whilst finishing above France in qualifying is no mean feat, they had to rely on Les Bleus losing to Ukraine and Iceland to ensure they would finish top in Group 3.
They have an experienced squad of players coming into this tournament, but having never played on a stage like this before I feel it may be too much for the Red Lynxes in Poland.
“When you see a team like Macedonia in the final tournament it might surprise you but we’re professional in what we do and we’ve analysed their qualifying campaign and can see why they’re here.” – Spain manager Albert Celdas.
It’s fair to say that there won’t be many punters rushing to get on Macedonia to win this tournament outright at 60/1 but Celdas won’t let his team go into this game with any complacency.
La Roja flattered to deceive in qualifying. Comfortable wins against San Marino and Estonia were followed by two draws against Sweden and a 3-0 humbling to Croatia. They qualified for this tournament through the play-offs and will be hoping to use momentum from friendly victories against Italy and Denmark when coming into this game.
As mentioned earlier, Spain have had the luxury that Germany and Portugal haven’t, and weren’t restricted by their selections due to the Confederations Cup.
They have Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez, Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin and Everton target Sandro Ramirez in the squad, along with plenty of other familiar faces including Inaki Williams, Marco Asensio and Denis Suarez. With arguably the best squad in the whole competition, Spain will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Betting Angles
In qualifying, Spain kept clean sheets in five games against Estonia, Georgia and San Marino and kept out Austria in their recent play-off fixture. Despite their good form recently I think Macedonia are of a similar ilk to those teams so 4/5 for Spain to win ‘to nil’ is a good price.
When playing away from their national stadium in Skopje, Macedonia have only won five games since 2004 and, whilst I don’t think it will be a whitewash, it would be a miracle if they come away from this tie with their sixth.
Spain U21 v Macedonia U21 – Spain to win ‘to nil’ (4/5 William Hill)