UEFA Under-21 Championship Group B: England begin with Portugal clash
The 2015 Under-21 European Championship has finally begun and, with Group A having kicked-off, it’s time for Group B nations to start their campaign, which sees England’s opening fixture.
Gareth Southgate’s Young Lions will begin the competition with a clash against close contenders Portugal, with both countries 5/1 second-favourites with Coral to claim victory in the Czech Republic this summer.
England v Portugal
The young English hopefuls possess plenty of firepower within their ranks and are more than capable of going all the way in this competition, but a tough test against Portugal is sure to set the standard for proceedings on Czech Republican soil.
With Stoke City’s Jack Butland as number one, behind a defence consisting of talented pair Michael Keane and Calum Chambers, England will be confident of thwarting even the most dangerous attackers, and are 23/10 to keep a clean sheet. However, Everton’s John Stones is a key absence in that defence, and could miss the Sweden clash as well, after suffering from concussion.
Up front, Southgate has a prolific Premier League duo of Danny Ings and Harry Kane to choose from, with both frontmen having enjoyed clinical seasons in the top flight this past season.
West Bromwich Albion forward Berahino was only three goals away from being the England Under-21’s all-time scorer, currently held by both Alan Shearer and Francis Jeffers on 13 strikes, but has been been ruled out with an injury and replaced in the squad by Wolves forward Benik Afobe. In-form Spurs star Kane netted on his senior international debut, and he is 7/2 to strike again anytime and inspire his side to victory.
For Portugal, boss Rui Jorge also has plenty of young talent at his disposal, including Monaco’s Bernardo Silva, who has dropped down from the senior squad to feature.
The highly-regarded attacking midfielder is 11/4 to score anytime, and is sure to be a key danger man to England, while Goncalo Paciencia is as close to an out-and-out striker Portugal have, with 10 goals in 20 outings last season for Porto B (11/1 to bag a brace).
Italy v Sweden
The Italians have a rich history in this Under-21 event, having won it on five occasions, with previous victors including Fabio Cannavaro, Francesco Totti and Gianluigi Buffon.
This current crop of Azzurrini are odds-on 4/5 favourites to topple Sweden in their first clash, but are better value of 5/1 to win both halves of their competition opener.
Juventus striker Domenico Berardi is one to watch out for in Group B, having struck a hat-trick against AC Milan in two consecutive seasons while on loan at Sassuolo, while also becoming the only player ever to net two trebles against the Rossonneri. He is 7/1 to net a double or more against Sweden.
For the Swedish, a recognisable face will come in the form of Manchester City frontman John Guidetti, who spent the past season on loan with Scottish Premiership champions Celtic. The feisty striker is out of contract in July and will be a potentially quality free signing for a top club this summer, with Fiorentina reportedly interested in his astute services (7/1 to score first).
Betting tip: Kane to score anytime and England to win @ 7/2