The UEFA European U21 Championship begins on Sunday, but who are the favourites, and what shape are Aidy Boothroyd’s England in?
From the key dates and venues, to the favourites, as well as the latest from the England camp, here’s what you need to know…
The teams, dates and venues
England are one of 12 teams taking part in the tournament, which takes place across five Italian cities and one in San Marino, and runs from Sunday, June 16 to Sunday, June 30.
The six host cities and stadium
- Bologna, Italy – Stadio Renato Dall’Ara
- n Reggio Emilia, Italy – Mapei Stadium – Citta del Tricolore
- Cesenas, Italy – Stadio Dino Manuzzi
- Trieste, Italy – Stadio Nereo Rocco
- Udine, Italy – Dacia Arena
- Serravalle, San Marino – San Marino Stadium
- All the Euro U21 Championship fixtures
- Fixtures live on Sky Sports
What they are all playing for…
Italy, Spain, France, England, Serbia, Germany, Croatia, Denmark, Belgium, Romania, Austria, and Poland all qualified for the tournament, and this is what they are playing for…
Who’s in which group?
Defending champions Germany start their defence against Denmark on Monday, June 17, while England open their campaign against France in Cesena on Tuesday, June 18.
Is VAR in use?
For the first time, VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system will be used at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
The group stage ends on June 24, before the semi-finals, which take place in Bologna and Reggio Emilia, take centre stage.
The final takes place in Udine on Sunday, June 30, with kick-off at 7.45pm.
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This tournament will serve as European qualifying for the Olympic football tournament, with the four semi-finalists qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympic men’s football tournament in Japan.<br><br>There will be an Olympic play-off match to decide the last UEFA team qualifying for the 2020 Olympics if England are among the semi-finalists.
Who are the favourites?
England are the 7/2 favourites with Sky Bet ahead of Spain (4/1), France (9/2), holders Germany (11/2), and hosts Italy (11/2), and England boss Aidy Boothroyd says it’s a big confidence boost for his side going into the tournament.
“It’s a massive compliment considering the teams that are in the tournament,” he told Sky Sports. “All the big hitters are there and the teams you might look at and think if they’ve got to the tournament they’ve got to be very good.
“It’s nice to be thought of as a favourite rather than a team that aren’t going to do very well. There’s a massive difference.”
Tournament winner: Sky Bet odds
- England: 7/2
- Spain: 4/1
- France: 9/2
- Germany: 11/2
- Italy: 11/2
- Denmark: 16/1
- Serbia: 16/1
- Belgium: 25/1
- Croatia: 33/1
- Poland: 40/1
- Austria: 50/1
- Romania: 66/1
For more Sky Bet odds on the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, including match odds, group winners, and Golden Boot winner, head HERE!
Have your say… Can England better 2017?
It was semi-final heartbreak for England’s youngsters in 2017 after a 4-3 penalty defeat to Germany in Tychy, but Boothroyd insists his side have learned from the experience two years ago.
“Some players going into the tournament didn’t realise how big it was,” the England boss said. “With the coverage the tournament gets, it’s a bit of a shop window for some, and they can show their managers, or potential managers, what they are all about. Overall, we are really pleased with the squad we’ve got and we think we’ve got enough experience of some of the other bigger tournaments, but this will be slightly different and slightly bigger.”
Goalkeepers: Angus Gunn (Southampton), Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United)
Defenders: Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea), Jay Dasilva (Chelsea), Lloyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Ezri Konsa (Brentford), Fikayo Tomori (Derby County, loan from Chelsea), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)
Midfielders: Harvey Barnes (Leicester City), Hamza Choudhury (Leicester City), Kieran Dowell (Everton), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Derby County, loan from Chelsea), Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)
Forwards: Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa, loan from Chelsea), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Demarai Gray (Leicester City), Reiss Nelson (Arsenal), Dominic Solanke (AFC Bournemouth)
Can England use that experience to go on and win the tournament? Boothroyd’s looking forward to the challenge that awaits his young England stars.
“This is the most exciting part of the job for me,” he added. “We’ve had the winters, we’ve watched the players, we’ve been to the clubs, we’ve had the meetings, we’ve done the preparation, we’ve been to the hotels, the training grounds, and the grounds.
“We’ve found out all the stuff we needed to know to get ready for the tournament, and this is what it’s all about. Training, preparing, and then playing in the tournament. It’s the best part of the job. The football has always got to be the best thing. Sometimes we don’t get enough of the football and we’ll go out and watch games but yearn for that Saturday feeling. But at the tournaments, there’s no better feeling. It’s brilliant.
“I’m really looking forward to it, and hopefully we can go two better than what we did last time and get a good result.”
How to follow England
All of England’s games will be shown live on Sky Sports Football.
If you can’t watch live, then you can also follow the action with our live blogs on www.skysports.com and the Sky Sports app, with in-game clips and highlights throughout the matches.
The stars on show
England’s problems in midfield at senior level are well documented, and Foden’s name is never too far away from the discussion as a possible solution for Gareth Southgate. The 19-year-old enjoyed a decent finish to the season under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, scoring the winner in his side’s crucial 1-0 win over Tottenham, and a strong showing for the England U21s will no doubt further the calls for his inclusion in Southgate’s next England squad.
The Real Madrid midfielder was the player of the tournament in 2017. Already a full Spain international with six caps, Ceballos will be looking to shine again on the big stage as he looks to nail down a regular spot in Zinedine Zidane’s midfield at the Bernabeu.
Ceballos’ new Real Madrid teammate is the standout name in Serbia’s squad. Jovic’s impressive performances last season earned him a £52.4m move to the Bernabeu. The 21-year-old, who has six full caps to his name, scored 30 goals for club and country in all competitions and will be hoping to continue that form in the tournament.
Kean has made a blistering start to his international career, scoring twice in three full international appearances for Italy after a breakthrough season with Juventus. The 19-year-old scored seven goals in 17 appearances in all appearances for the Serie A champions and will hoping to lead the host nation all the way.
A host of Premier League clubs have been linked with a move for the former Celtic striker, who scored 17 goals for Lyon in all competitions. He will be hoping to continue that form and fire France to a second Euro U21 title – a first since 1988.
All the ways to watch…
Every game during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship will be shown live on Sky Sports.