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U-21 Group B matches preview

There’s every chance that Spain’s Group B game with The Netherlands at Petah Tikva tomorrow evening will be a dress rehearsal for the final in Jerusalem next Tuesday and nobody will be complaining if it does turn out that way.

Both sides have, in their different ways, played some scintillating stuff while winning their opening two matches. Spain’s youngsters go about their business in exactly the same way as the senior team, buying in completely to a philosophy of patience and quality possession. Or, as Sir Alex Ferguson once put it, “they pass you to death.”

That patience has been put to the test by both Russia and Germany and it needed a late goal on both occasions by Alvaro Morata (9/2 with Coral to again score first for Spain) to finally see them off.

The Netherlands, on the other hand, have been scoring freely, winning 3-2 against Germany and then thrashing Russia 5-1 last Sunday.

A straight form comparison between Spain and The Netherlands is probably misleading. While Spain spent almost the whole time trying to break down stubborn opposition, The Netherlands were involved in two far more open affairs and Russia were actually still in the game until having one of their men sent off.

This game is hard to call. While both teams will be happy to gain a psychological edge, they will be keener still not to take any risks and we are likely to see players rested. It might even end up goalless (14/1 with Coral).

And then there is the prospect of Norway upsetting Italy tonight to top Group A, which would mean that the winners tomorrow would face the Italians in the semi-final, probably not the preferred option for either team.

All things being equal, Spain are worthy favourites to win tomorrow (11/10) and to go on and win the Final (5/4). The Netherlands have been dynamic at times – especially in the first half against Germany – but, like the rest, will be mostly preoccupied with trying to keep the skilful Spanish at bay.

Germany have been one of the better sides in this tournament and it’s tough on them that they are already out following two narrow defeats. They have been good, as good as The Netherlands, though not quite as good as the excellent Spain. It will be small consolation for them, but signing off with a win against Russia looks on the cards (17/20 with Coral).

Written by Jon Freeman