Who said football was finished for the summer. After the Toulon Tournament the European U21 Tournament kicked off in Denmark this week. Mike Brazier from The Life Junkies is our man in Denmark (Cheltenham) for the duration of the tournament. He kicks off by guiding us through the first four matches.

So on Saturday all the waiting was over and the U21 Euros got underway. Some of the best young players in the world have the chance to gain valuable tournament experience and show the world what they can do.

To kick the tournament off we had Belarus taking on Iceland. As openers go, this was poor with both teams misplacing far too many passes and failing to build up any momentum. Iceland started to show some neat touches towards the end of the first half and into the second half their good play provided Kolbeinn Sigþórsson with three chances to score. The chances missed would come back to haunt the Icelandic youngsters,  a great move from Belarus found Stanislaw Drahun in the box he took the ball under control before he was hauled down by Aron Gunnarsson.

Gunnarsson was sent to the stand and Andrey Varankow converted the penalty for Belarus. Suddenly a man and a goal down Iceland struggled and it wasn’t long before Maksim Skavysh made it two for just three minutes before the 90 minutes was up. A surprising result given the balance of play but Iceland had the chances to score and didn’t take them.

Next up the hosts, Denmark, taking on the very talented and much fancied Swiss side, this was a much better match than the opener with both teams looking confident. The headlines will be taken by Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal and it was a possible goal of the tournament contender, but for me the man of the match was Yann Sommer. He was a rock at the back for Switzerland and made some good saves to contain the Danes.

Now I should really talk about the goal, after a driving run from central midfield, Shaqiri found himself on the left edge of the Danish penalty area, and he let rip with a great left footed shot that rocketed into the bottom right corner. The goal came just after half-time but it didn’t affect the way either team played, both pressed for more and Denmark thought they had equalised. Striker Nicki Bille found the net in injury time but he was judged to have been offside, a harsh ruling in my humble opinion.

Sunday’s football kicked off with Czech Republic taking on Ukraine. Both teams were looking sharp and likely to score it was a surprise for the first half to end in a stalemate. Slovan Liberac midfielder Bořek Dočkal broke the deadlock just four minutes into the second half after Ondřej Čelůstka ‘s cheeky pass. Then it was Lukáš Vácha who set Dočkal up for his second a left foot shot from 18 meters out. Ukraine did manage to grab one back after Artem Kravets broke free and fed Maksym Bilyi to score, but with three minutes left it was just too late for Ukraine to equalise, the three points give the Czech side a superb start to the tournament.

Finally the match most people were eagerly anticipating. England taking on the well fancied Spaniards, with both teams dripping with talent this had the chance to be the match of the tournament. England however had other ideas and started the match by copying their senior counterparts and passing the ball sideways at the back from defender to keeper to defender.

Michael Mancienne was one such offender with most of his passes being to the defence. Mancienne looked lost in midfield and had a poor game. Jack Rodwell would have been a much better choice. England’s lack of adventure was punished when Spain scored from a corner after Mancienne lost Ander Herrera, unmarked Herrera’s header found the back of the net.

Spain played a consistently good game with no player standing out but no player looking lost or out of place. England on the other hand went through stages of great play to being unable to pass in a straight line. England biggest issue was playing the ball from the back. Frank Fielding kept trying to pass to defenders who were being pressed and as such received the ball straight back not knowing what to do with it. This is something that needs to be sorted out if England wants to do better.

David de Gea lived up to expectations with a sublime save after a deflection from Kyle Walker’s cross. Kyle Walker was England’s stand out performer and he was the driving force behind England last minute equalizer. After a typical Walker-esque run he played the ball to an apparently off-side Danny Welbeck who converted to gain England a valuable point.

 

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