European Championship for Under 21 travels to Italy and San Marino this year, featuring 12 of the best U21 teams from Europe competing for the title and glory. The tournament will begin on June 16th and conclude on June 30th with the finals match that is set to take place at Dacia Arena, Udine.
The 2019 UEFA European under 21 championship will be the 25th edition of the tournament, which saw its beginnings in 1972. In its relatively long history, the tournament was held in 13 different countries, however, this year will be the first when we will get to see the best U21 players competing in Italy. Alongside Italy, the matches will also be played in a co-host country of San Marino, which will also make the 2019 U21 European championship the first ever that will be held in two separate countries.
VENUES and TEAMS
The UEFA European U-21 Championship will be held in two countries, Italy and San Marino and on 6 different stadiums. The tournament will start off with a match between Poland and Belgium on June 16th at 18:30, at Mapei Stadium, Città del Tricolore, followed by a match between the hosts Italy and Spain at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. The semi-finals will be played on June 27th at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara and Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolor, while the finals that will take place on June 30th will be played at Dacia Arena in Udine.
Stadiums and Cities
A full list of stadiums and host cities is as follows:
– Bologna; Stadio Renato Dall’Ara (31,000 capacity)
– Reggio nell’Emilia; Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore (21,500 capacity)
– Casena; Stadio Dino Manuzzi (20,194 capacity)
– Trieste; Stadio Nereo Rocco (20,500 capacity)
– Udine; Dacia Arena (25,151 capacity)
– Serravalle, San Marino; San Marino Stadium (4,778 capacity)
The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, 11 of which had to go through qualifiers, with exception of Italy, who as a host get to participate in the tournament without qualifying. San Marino on the other side did not get to appear in the tournament. The full list of participating teams has been released on November 20th and includes the following teams:
Italy, Spain, France, England, Serbia, Germany, Croatia, Denmark, Belgium, Romania, Poland and Austria.
As an interesting fact, Croatia will return to the UEFA European U21 Championship after 15 long years, with their last appearance in 2004, while Romania will return after 21 years, with their last appearance in 1998. The U21 European Championship will also be the debut tournament for Austrian team who qualified via play-offs, defeating Greece 0-2.
GROUPS and FORMAT
After the qualifiers finished the 12 participating teams were known, it was time for a final draw, which would relocate them into 3 groups of 4 teams. The draw took place 3 days after the final two teams qualified, which was on November 23rd, 2018 in Sant’Agata Bolognese and it was conducted by Andrea Pirlo, who is the tournament ambassador. The participating 12 teams were split into 4 pots, with the first one featuring only the host, Italy, while the remaining 3 were filled by teams according to their coefficient ranking. Each group was then given one team from pot 2 or the host, one team from Pot 3 and two teams from pot 4. After all was set and done, the draw presented the following groups:
Group A: Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Serbia, Austria
Group C: England, France, Romania, Croatia
The format of the tournament is a round-robin format, with the winners of groups alongside the runners-up advancing into the semi-finals, while the 3rd and 4th team get send home. In addition to qualifying for play-offs, the teams will also fight for their spot at the Olympics. Just like previous Under-21 Championships that were held prior to the Olympic Games, the 2019 UEFA European U21 Championship will serve as a qualifier for 2020 Olympic football tournament.
As it was revealed, the tickets for 2020 Olympics will be given to the top 4 teams of the tournament after group stage. In other words, the winners of the group alongside the best performing runners-up will get directly invited for the Olympics. Should England finish in the top 4, the 2nd and 3rd best runners-up will contest an Olympic play-off, due to England’s ineligibility to compete in the Olympic football tournament. The possible Olympic play-offs are set to take place on June 27th in Casena.
As suggested by the bookmakers, there are 5 teams who are all considered to be the favourites. England leads the pack with odds of 5.00, followed by Spain and Italy at 5.50, France at 6.00 and Germany as 5th in line with odds of 6.50.
England, who have won the U17 and U20 tournament in 2017 are not surprisingly among the favourites to repeat their success in 2019 as well. Featuring names like Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Maddison and Aidy Boothroyd, who are all among the best young players in the world, England looks strong heading into U21 European championship. With their experience, quality and team depth, the Young Lions are surely a great value to win their 3rd U21 title. When we talk about teams that are looking to repeat their success, we cannot forget to mention Italy, who are hoping they can win their 6th this year. While they are the most successful nation with 5 titles to their name, it was well over a decade when Italy last won Euros, with their last title coming form 2014. Despite that, Luigi Di Biagio’s men should not be underestimated, especially with all the quality and experience they possess. Featuring names like Alex Meret, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Rolando Mandragora, who are exceptional players and arguably far more experienced that most of the opponents they will face, Italy is a team we should look out for. But Italian excellence does not stop there. On top of the experienced players, Italy will enter the tournament with an extremely dangerous attack, which will consist out of Moise Kean, Patrick Cutrone and Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa, which should strike fear in any opponents they might face.
That leaves us with Spain, France and Germany who are the remaining 3 favourites, whom all have a legitimate chance to leave a mark in the tournament, however, putting them side by side with our top two favourites England and Italy, we simply don’t believe they have what it takes to go all the way. Picking between Italy and England is a hard task. The odds suggest the Young Lions are most likely to win it all, which is reasonable as they do have a strong team, however I am confident saying that Italy can overcome them. Not only is Italy a team filled with stars who had an excellent season behind them, the tournament will also be played on their home soil, which should be enough to push them over the top and win themselves their 6th title in history.