The England Under-21s face the struggling champions Germany Under-21s on Wednesday with nothing more than pride on the line because they have already qualified for the quarterfinals and first place in Group C.
With just one point from their first two group games, Antonio Di Salvo’s team is in danger of losing their title earlier than the Young Lions.
With victories over Israel and the Czech Republic by scores of 2-0, Lee Carsley’s England team has had an ideal opening to the 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championships. As a result, the Young Lions are in first place in Group C and have already improved upon their group stage exit from 2021 before this final group match in Batumi. They also easily advanced into the knockout stage.
England managed to go past the group stage in the most recent tournament, but they’ll be looking to maintain momentum as they try to top that 2017 exit by winning the trophy for the first time since 1984. In fact, Germany eliminated England from the 2017 tournament in a penalty shootout that was reminiscent of the senior team’s defeats at the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1996.
Germany lost their first two group games (D1, L1), therefore a draw after 90 minutes won’t be enough to save them this time. Germany knows they must improve on that with a win while praying Israel defeats Czech Republic, and even then it would come down to goal differential. They have only won two of their last eight games (W2, D3, L3).
The young Germans are undoubtedly talented, having been to the final in each of the past three tournaments and taking home three of their last six titles. Nevertheless, confidence may have been shaken when Youssoufa Moukoko and Jessic Ngankam faced a flood of vile online racist slurs following their respective missed penalties during this event, with the latter bluntly declaring, If we win, we’re all Germans. These remarks only come if we lose.
Morgan Gibbs-White with an assist for Anthony Gordon 👀
— Forest Watch (@ForestWatch_) June 25, 2023
Morgan Gibbs-White, the 2022/23 season’s Player of the Year for Nottingham Forest and a rising star for England, assisted on both goals in the most recent triumph for his country, adding to his eight assists in the Premier League. The previous time he met Brentford and German U21 attacker Kevin Schade, he was on the losing end.
With only one issue to address for their last group game right-back Max Aarons missed the victory against Israel due to illness, England manager Carsley will undoubtedly be persuaded to make a number of changes with a view toward the quarterfinals next month.
There should be room for players like Harvey Elliott, Cole Palmer, Oliver Skipp, and Cameron Archer to win starts, but Carsley must walk a tight line between keeping his big guns fresh and fielding a team that can compete with the champs.
Josh Griffiths and Carl Rushworth could compete for the gloves here while Jarrad Branthwaite and Luke Thomas could potentially revitalize the defense. James Trafford, the goalkeeper, might also be spared.
There is nothing to suggest that the Hoffenheim player won’t be available here, despite the fact that Germany’s goal scorer Stiller appeared to be a little less than fully recovered when he was substituted in the closing five minutes of their loss to the Czech Republic.
Youssoufa Moukoko, a Borussia Dortmund prospect, was unexpectedly benched by Di Salvo at the weekend, but the 18-year-old will undoubtedly be considered for a swift recall here, perhaps alongside Kevin Schade as Jessic Ngankam is substituted.
England Under-21s’ possible starting lineup
Rushworth, Aarons, Harwood-Bellis, Branthwaite, Thomas, Skipp, Ramsey, Elliott, Palmer, Smith Rowe and Archer.
Germany under-21s possible starting lineup
Atubolu, Vagnoman, Bisseck, Matriciani, Netz, Krauss, Martel, Stiller, Huseinbasic, Schade and Moukoko.
We predict: England Under-21s 1-1 Germany Under-21s
Germany might bemoan their lack of success against Israel or the Czech Republic, but they can also bemoan their lack of ruthlessness. This is not the finest preparation for a match against an England team that has yet to concede in the tournament.
In order to avoid injuries before the knockout stages, Carsley’s rotated team can be excused for letting up a bit, so defeating the champions might be too much to ask. However, a tightly contested draw would maintain the Young Lions’ perfect record while ensuring Germany’s fourth ever group stage exit.