Football European Under-21 Semi-Finals preview

Spain’s fabulous Under-21 side go marching on and shockwaves will reverberate around Europe if Norway prevent them from reaching the Championship final in Jerusalem next Tuesday.

The reigning champions were 13/8 favourites when the tournament started and after a flawless group campaign, in which they won all three games game without conceding a goal, they are now 4/5 with Coral.

Norway are the outsiders of the four semi-finalists at 14/1 and though the Scandinavians have done well to get through their group (indeed they were only one kick of the ball away from winning it), this is likely to prove one hurdle too far. They are an efficient unit with a tremendous team spirit, but surely more than that will be required to beat a rampant Spain in Israel on Saturday.

Coral go 2/5 Spain, (7/1 Norway and 7/2 the draw) and if betting odds-on is not your thing, a correct scoreline of 3-0 (8/1) might prove tempting.

Spain faced less of a test against a vastly under-strength Netherlands team yesterday than they did against Germany, but they could only beat what was put in front of them and they went about their work in typically slick and skilful fashion. A 3-0 winning margin perhaps flattered them a little, but it should be stressed they had made seven changes of their own.

Goal threats come from everywhere, but their star striker is turning out to be Alvaro Morata, who has netted in each of the three games so far. He is just 8/11 to score at any time again on Saturday, but 3/1 to net first and 12/1 to notch a hat-trick.

The other semi-final promises to be a much closer affair, as reflected in Coral’s odds: 8/5 The Netherlands, 17/10 Italy, 9/4 the draw.

The Netherlands put out a shadow squad against Spain and will be a much stronger proposition this time. Like Spain, they have a multitude of potential goalscorers – five different players found the net against Russia.

Their defence, however, has not been so impressive (they have conceded an average of two goals a game so far) and any good work up front might be undone at the back with talented and clever Italian forwards like Manolo Gabbiadini (11/2 with Coral to open the scoring for the Azzurrini) and Lorenzo Insigne (6/1) ready to pounce on any Dutch shoddiness.

There are no direct form lines from this tournament to help split these two excellent sides, but Italy’s youngsters did blow the Dutch away (3-0 up by half time) in a friendly in Holland last summer. It should be tighter this time, but Italy may again come out on top, perhaps 2-1 (9/1) to set up a mouth-watering final showdown with Spain.

Written by Jon Freeman