UEFA U-21 Euros: First round recap


With the first round of group fixtures now over, we recap all the action from the games that took place. The opening games saw Poland vs Belgium, Italy vs Spain, Serbia and Austria square off followed by Germany vs. Denmark, the second batch saw Romania and Croatia play followed by England taking on France.

Poland vs Belgium:

Credit: Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The opening game of the group stage proved to be a thriller as Poland took on Belgium. The opening exchanges saw Belgium completely over-running the Polish as they peppered their backline with shots, however, Poland were resilient for much of it as most efforts were off target. Nonetheless, they would only hold out for so long. Following an attack down the left hand side, Isaac Mbenza played a ball in that was tucked away by Aaron Leya Iseka with little struggle. The Belgians almost carved Poland open again soon after with Siebe Schrijvers skewing  his shot wide after finding himself through on goal. This effort would prove to be one that haunted Belgium as Poland snatched a goal back exactly ten minutes later, a long driven shot from Szymon Zurkowski found its way into the back of the net to put the Polish back in the running of the match. The rest of the half saw momentum fall Poland’s way as they had two further chances, one which saw the Belgium stopper, Nordin Jackers, called into action.

After returning for the second half, Poland made sure to continue their upward trajectory. After winning a corner, a well guided cross into the box was tucked away by Krystian Bielik as he headed the ball down into the ground with the bounce leaving the keeper completely stranded. Belgium almost converted from a corner themselves not long after, however, once again their wastefulness would come back to haunt them. Zurkowski turned into the provider this time as he got inside his man to slot the ball into the path of Sebastian Szymanski who tapped it into an empty net. Belgium almost responded not long after with Schrijvers once again through on goal only to see his effort go to waste. Belgium would net again with just over 5 minutes to go as Dion Cools headed in from a corner, but, the effort would be in vain as they slipped to a defeat.

Italy vs Spain:

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In what can be seen as one of the more heavyweight clashes of the round, Italy and Spain took to the field. With both sides boasting some of the tournaments most exciting talents, the game was surprisingly more one-sided than many would have expected. Despite a world class long range effort from Real Madrid’s Dani Ceballos, Spain were unable to make their momentum count. Italy would level the score thanks to a darting run from Federico Chiesa just ten minutes before the conclusion of the first half.

Despite Spain’s Carlos Soler having a decent attempt early in the second half, Italy were able to find another break through just under twenty minutes into second half. After a defensive mix-up, Federico Chiesa once again found himself on the score-sheet as he was left in open space to fire home. Even though he proved to be a menace for much of the game, Ceballos was unable to find his team-mates on a couple of occasions in the final third. As the game entered the final stages, Carlos Soler gave away a penalty after tussling with an Italian player on the edge of the box. With Lorenzo Pellegrini firing the penalty home, with Italy walking away 3-1 victors over Spain.

Serbia vs Austria:

Serbia v Austria: Group B - 2019 UEFA U-21 Championship : News Photo

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In their opening game, Serbia took on Austria in what was quite an anticipated match. With Luka Jovic fresh off the hype of his move to Real Madrid, all eyes were on the Serbian striker, although it turned out to be a game to forget for Jovic and his team. From the off, Austria were quick and snappy in their play, moving the Serbian back-line around with their steady approach when in possession.

The majority of Austria’s threat came from out wide as Hovarth and Wolf found themselves consistently creating danger.

After a lot of back and forth, Austria found their break-through goal, Randunovic made a great save from a one-on-one, Hannes Wolf scored into an open net from the rebound, although, VAR intervened and after a prolonged deliberation period, the goal was given.

Serbia created danger in the opening exchanges of the second half, hitting the bar not long after the game was resumed, however, Austria also had their chances – with Wolf missing a one-on-one in the 60th minute and again just minutes later with Schlager.

Serbia were met with more misfortune late in the half as Jovanovic tackled and snapped the leg of Hannes Wolf, which saw the Serb red carded. After Hovarth converted a free-kick in the 78th minute, the game faded out as it came to a close.

Germany vs Denmark:

Germany v Denmark: Group B - 2019 UEFA U-21 Championship : News Photo

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Germany took on Denmark in their opening game of the competition in what was an easy game for the Germans. The opening few minutes saw the Germans swarming the Danish box. Richter in particular proved to be a complete headache for Denmark as he continually found himself in open space. As they continued pressuring the Dane’s, Germany got the break through in the 27th minute. After patient passing in the area, Richter slotted the ball home. For the remainder of the first half, Germany simply controlled the game as they saw out the final minutes until the interval.

After the action resumed, Germany once again pressed the action as they searched to further their lead, they found another breakthrough as Richter found himself free on the break, after taking on the defender the German slotted it past the keeper calmly. With momentum in their stride, Germany continued to press for more which proved successful as they scored third not long after. Waldschmidt broke on the counter and went at it alone before cooly chipping the Goalkeeper. Now 3-0 up, Germany seemingly took it easy which allowed Denmark to win a penalty following a handball to score a consolation goal. However, by and large, Germany dominated the match.

Romania vs Croatia:

Romania v Croatia: Group C - 2019 UEFA U-21 Championship : News Photo

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This game proved to be the most exciting in the round in terms of attacking play. Right from the off, Romania and Croatia threw it all on the line with both sides having shots in the opening minutes.

In the eleventh minute, Puscas won Romania a penalty after the ball was handled in the box following his shot, the striker slotted the ball in for the opening goal which was then followed up with a second just minutes later by Hagi.

Croatia did not rest on their laurels, however, they immediately responded by slicing the Romanian lead in half as Vlasic got one back for his side. For the remainder of the first half, both sides just continued to attack, both without scoring however.

Upon the continuation of play, shots continued to fly in from both sides as Romania looked to further their lead whilst Croatia tried to level the score. As the match wore on, the clinical edge of Romania became present as they notched a second goal in the 66th minute and followed that up with a fourth in the 90th minute. Romania took their chances well and Croatia will be frustrated with the fact they were so wasteful in front of goal, with a conversion rate of 6% compared to Romania’s 21%.

England vs France:

FBL-EURO-U21-GBR-FRA : News Photo

Image: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

In what was another game that was highly anticipated, many were expecting big things of England in this tournament, however, their opening game against France was disappointing to say the least. Right from kick off, the French controlled the game as they did well to create chances. Throughout the game, it seemed France scoring was a given and England didn’t look to be threatening anytime soon. After a penalty miss from Moussa Dembele, the first half concluded goal-less, much to the surprise of many as the French were so dominant.

In the second half, Phil Foden danced past French players as he scored in the 53rd minute with a goal that was definitely against the run of play. Following the goal, France once again took control and were threatening, however, Hamza Choudhury was given a straight red card for a woeful challenge only ten minutes after England’s goal, despite France missing the resulting penalty, they would eventually score. Nanitomo Ikone, who fired a low shot past Henderson, Ikone had been France’s brightest attacker for much of the game. In the 95th minute, Aaron Wan-Bissaka fired the ball into his own net after an attempted clearance went wrong, all but sealing a win for the French in what was a deserved win.


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