It’s an odd numbered year (2017), which means no World Cup or European Championships to get excited about.
However, there is some fantastic football to enjoy over the next fortnight with the European U21 Championships which are taking place in Poland.
Twelve teams are taking part in three groups, with the winners of each group, plus the best runner up, advancing into the semi finals. Sky Sports are showing all matches live and I’m going to cover the tournament, in full, with tips and predictions.
Euro U21 Football Tips: Friday 16th June
June 16, 2017
Kielce City Stadion
June 16, 2017
Kielce City Stadion
England U21 have won four and lost two of their last six U21 games, losing narrowly to France and Germany.
Sweden’s U21 have not played a competitive game since qualifying for the Euro U21 Championship in Oct 2016.
Twelve of Sweden’s U21 squad have picked up senior international caps already, whereas only three of England’s squad have.
Two years ago, the teams met in the Group Stage of the same tournament, England winning 1-0.
Historically, England have a solid record against the Swede’s at U21 level, in sharp contrast to their senior team. In addition to the win in the Euro U21 tournament two years ago, Stuart Pearce’s side eliminated Sweden on penalties in the 2009 semi final. In four meetings before that, England won two, there was one draw and Sweden have won just the once.
Sweden have striker Joel Asoro suspended from this game which will be a blow, but Gustav Engvall should feature after scoring three goals in six games during qualifying. Key men for Sweden will include midfielders Tankovic, Hallberg and Olsson while Wahlqvist will likely lead the back line.
England’s squad is experienced with the likes of Nathan Redmond, James Ward Prowse and Nathanial Chalobah having masses of experience at this level. Had England picked all the players available to them (including the likes of Alli, Rashford and Dier) then they would be strong favourites, but even so they should have enough quality to get at result here.
Slovakia U21s come into this game in brilliant form having drawn one and won five of their last six.
Poland U21s have been less impressive in their last half dozen games, winning three, but losing three
This is Poland’s first time in the finals since 1994, when they reached the quarter finals. Slovakia last qualified back in 2000, when held in Slovakia.
The teams have met twice before at U21 level with one win apiece.
Home advantage can be huge for any team and Poland will certainly be hoping their youngsters get a boost playing in front of their own support in Lublin, but they face a real tricky task against a Slovakia side that were unbeaten in qualifying and finished five points clear in their group, which contained Turkey and the Netherlands.
Slovakia have two very dangerous strikers in Adam Zrelak and Martin Chrien, Zrelak scoring five goals in just four qualifying games, while Chrien grabbed four in seven in what was a hugely impressive qualifying performance.
Poland will gain an advantage from being at home, but I think they are going to struggle against a team that came through a tough qualifying group so strongly and as such, I think Slovakia may just have the edge in this one.
The Cheeky Punter is an professional online sports bettor and trader with over 15 years of experience in the industry. He has worked for a number of top bookmakers including Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral. He's also written for a number of leading news outlets including the Guardian, i (newspaper) and Soccer Lens. More about him here.