England v Germany, Uefa European Under-21 Championships final, June 29, 2009
“The team who has the most guts, takes their chances and maybe has enough fit players will win. We came here to win, now we want to take the trophy home.” â€“ Stuart Pearce.
As England (11/8 to win) go into their first final at this level since 1984, their head coach Stuart Pearce continues to dominate the headlines with stirring quotes like the one above. The former Nottingham Forest full-back should be lauded for leading England to the final and along the way winning a dreaded semi-final penalty shoot-out.
To add to calls that will likely be forthcoming if the Young Lions win the final, Pearce made his squad practice penalties for a full two years and his decision to play a reserve team against Germany in the group stages, in a match that finished 1-1, now looks like a masterstroke.
However, incredibly, England go into the final with just one fit forward as both Gabriel Agbonlahor and Frazier Campbell are suspended, leaving just Theo Walcott to plough a lone furrow up front. No wonder Sven Goran Eriksson, a manager who made the exact mistake at the last World Cup, has backed Pearce to take over the full England job. (Walcott is 13/8 to score.)
As a result, this game could well be a low scoring affair (4/7 of there being under 2.5 goals) with Germany having negotiated their way to the final having conceded just one goal (Jack Rodwellâ€™s header in the group game) and scored four. They are also without striker Ashkan Dejagah who is also suspended, leaving Sandro Wagner (2/1 to score) up top for Ze Germans.
The good news for England is that Wagner plays his club football for Duisburg in the German second division, claiming seven goals in 30 appearances last season. As a result the clear danger man for England to keep an eye on is Mesut Ozil (9/4 to score) of Werder Bremen, a playmaker who looks ready for the full national team.
Gonzalo Castro is probably the other attacking player England must watch out for, whilst Andreas Beck furthered his reputation with a fine goal from right-back in the shock semi-final win over Italy.
Germanyâ€™s strength lies in defence where Benedikt Howedes and Jerome Boateng have been in terrific form and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has established himself as the up-and-coming goalkeeper in European football. Neuer made a number of excellent saves against Italy and England may struggle to beat him twice. (England are 13/8 to score no goals.)
With Joe Hart suspended due to some crazy gamesmanship in the penalty shoot-out against Sweden, Watford keeper Scott Loach is expected to start. The midfield could be where the goals come from with the likes of Noble, Cattermole, Rodwell (5/1 to score) and Muamba all having fine tournaments.
The Young Lions will no doubt be wary that they were woeful in the second half against Sweden but having drawn with Ze Germans in the group stages with a reserve team, still have enough talent and experience to win the trophy. Germany though have a fantastic youth system and are bidding to be the first country ever to hold to hold the Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 titles at the same time. (Germany are 2/1 to win.)
On paper this looks like a low-scoring match with three strikers from both sides suspended. 101 Great Goals is backing England to win, but that is a prediction made from the heart rather than the head.
Full match odds here.