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Under-21 Football Final preview

The European Under-21 Football Championship reached its climax in Jerusalem tomorrow evening with the final most neutrals wanted to see – Spain versus Italy.

The European Under-21 Football Championship reached its climax in Jerusalem tomorrow evening with the final most neutrals wanted to see – Spain versus Italy.

Actually, nobody would have really minded if it has been Spain against Germany, The Netherlands – or England! – but the common denominator is Spain, the best side in the tournament by some margin and a joy to watch

‘La Rojita’ have been favourites throughout with bookies and punters, too. Coral made them 13/8 to win the tournament before a ball had been kicked and now they are odds-on to complete the job at the Teddy Stadium (8/11 over 90 minutes, 4/1 Italy, 5/2 the draw).

One of the big things we have learned in recent days is that Spain are still the handsome face of football’s future in both the short and medium terms. Their senior squad, currently strutting their stuff in Brazil in the Confederations Cup, have fantastic back-up to the familiar superstars, while the Under-21s have sent out the clear message that Spain’s fate will remain in good hands once the current golden generation has run out of legs.

Thiago was one of the stars of the tournament two years ago (Juan Mata was voted top player) and is again this time; pulling the strings in midfield just as he does for Barcelona when he gets a game.

But he has new talents alongside him this time, including the exciting Isco, who scored a fabulous goal to help see off Norway in the semi-final, and super-sub Alvaro Morata, who has netted four times in his first four appearances for the Spanish youngsters.

One of manager Julien Lopetegui’s big calls tomorrow will be whether to again go with his side’s established number one striker, Rodrigo, or this time give Morata a chance from the start. It was Rodrigo who broke the deadlock against the stubborn Norwegians, but Morata has been a revelation. Coral rate both 4/1 shots to score first with Isco at 5/1.

Italy have just been doing enough throughout this tournament, as is Italy’s way, and will be no pushovers for their more skilful opponents. Indeed, they have plenty of exciting talent of their own, including Manolo Gabbiadini (11/2 to score first for the Azzurini), Liverpool striker Fabio Borini (6/1) and the extremely talented Lorenzo Insigne, who have all made crucial contributions to their team’s attacking cause.

But Spain look the complete package – from goalkeeper David de Gea and a solid, well-drilled back four (yet to concede a goal), through their wonderfully creative midfield, to their match-winners up front – and most are expecting them to round off their fortnight’s work in style.

A win to nil is a distinct possibility (Coral go 13/8). More precisely, a 1-0 correct scoreline is 24/5 and 2-0 is 13/2.

Written by Jon Freeman