IT'S time for the European U21 Championship final on Friday night and who better to steer us in the right direction than Adam Goodwin (@AGJournalism)?
Germany U21 v Spain U21 | Friday 19:45 | Sky Sports
Sixty-four goals, 38 games, 12 teams, 10 referees, six stadiums and one penalty shootout. We’ve finally reached the Euro U21 final.
There’s been thrills, there’s been spills, there’s been skills (Dani Ceballos, I’m talking to you) and a summer “without any football” has been more than supplemented by this tournament in Poland.
Germany and Spain, undisputedly the two strongest and most exciting teams in the tournament, have made it down to the last two and they’ll both battle it out in Krakow on Friday night.
Perhaps it was naivety on my behalf but looking back at the first semi-final on Tuesday, Germany to win on penalties looked written in the stars.
It appears to happen in every major tournament, whether it be at senior or at youth level, the Germans are unbeatable from 12 yards. Nathan Redmond missed the decisive penalty in the shootout but it was England’s inability to hold onto their lead, in 90 minutes and on penalties, that really lost them the tie.
I tipped Germany to win on Tuesday but I was disappointed with them throughout much of the game. England refused to try and add to their one-goal lead heading into the last half an hour of the game, which invited the German attack onto them and equalise through substitute Felix Platte.
If Die Mannschaft were up against a stronger opposition I don’t think they would have been given the opportunity to get back into the game like they did. It remains unclear as to whether Niklas Stark will be available for the final. He was replaced by Gideon Jung in the starting XI minutes before the semi-final due to a back injury.
There are also doubts over Davie Selke’s fitness after the striker picked up a minor foot injury in training on Wednesday.
Spain’s semi-final was far more plain-sailing. Saul Niguez stole all the headlines with his hat-trick but it was a real team performance. Dani Ceballos was highlighted by many as Man of the Match but I thought the Spain defence was incredible on Tuesday and throughout the whole tournament.
They’ve only conceded two goals in five games, one of which was deflected and the other was arguably goal of the tournament. Centre backs Jorge Mere and Jesus Vallejo particularly impressed me with their discipline and composure against a potent Italy attack.
To make matters worse for Germany, Spain have a full squad available to them. No injuries and no suspensions, so Albert Celdas can pick his strongest starting XI on Friday evening.
The front three of Marco Asensio, Gerard Deulofeu and Sandro Ramirez looked genuinely unstoppable at times against Italy, particularly when the Italians had a man sent off, and when you can bring players off the bench such as Inaki Williams and Denis Suarez you’re almost guaranteed goals.
The depth in their squad was emphasised in their final group game when U21 boss Albert Celades made 11 changes, and they still won the game fairly comfortably.
The betting angle
I think the fact that Germany conceded two goals against a fairly average England attack will fill Spain with plenty of confidence heading into the final. Germany couldn’t deal with Will Hughes’ passing and intricate footwork in and around the box, so I think they might struggle when they come against the likes of Marco Asensio and Dani Cellabos.
I fancy Spain to lift the trophy on Friday but with the odds not particularly chunky, I’ll opt for a bet that has landed in 23 of their last 36 games – Spain to score Over 1.5 Goals is 17/20 with Winner, and I think this look a solid bet.
Germany have conceded at least twice against England, Russia and Austria in the last 12 months, all of which have nowhere near as good attacking threat as Spain do.
With all of Spain’s offensive options it was hard to decide on a goalscorer bet for the final but when I was looking through the odds there was one stand out bet that I thought provided some real value.
Gerard Deulofeu has only scored one goal so far in this tournament but has had plenty of chances to add to his tally. He’s the Spain penalty taker, which will only increase his chances of scoring, and whilst some people have labelled him as greedy, you can’t dispute his talent when he’s on top form.
Deulofeu is the captain and the most experienced player in the squad and will be asked by his manager to step up to the occasion. I reckon he will and he’s 5/2 to score in 90 minutes with Betfred.
Germany U21 v Spain U21 – Over 1.5 Spain Goals (17/20 Winner)
Germany U21 v Spain U21 – Gerard Deulofeu Anytime Goalscorer (5/2 Betfred)