It had to happen, didn’t it?
England have been drawn against Germany in the Semi-Finals of the European Under-21 Championship in Tychy on Tuesday night, as the Young Lions look to get one over on a side who have given the senior team so much heartache over the years.
There’s no doubt Aidy Boothroyd’s squad has a wealth of top-class young talents, but they’ll have to be at their best to handle their German counterparts. And in particular, to get the better of this talented trio…
Niklas Stark (CB/DM, Hertha BSC)
Hertha managed their highest league finish in eight years last season, a feat largely connected to the club’s impressive defensive record. And at the heart of that success was the towering 22-year-old Stark.
The imposing youngster looked equally confident at the heart of defence – where his power and composure proved key – and in a holding midfield role where his neat passing and ability to break up play were vital.
He tends to play the former role for Stefan Kuntz’s Under-21 side, who conceded a solitary goal in their three Euros group games. Oh, and he’s unsurprisingly a threat from set-plays, netting in two of his 17 appearances to date at this age group.
Maximilian Arnold (CM, VfL Wolfsburg)
Having starred for Germany in every age group from the Under-16s side up, it’s no surprise that Arnold has captained the Under-21s at each of the last two European Championships.
A dependable, classy performer in the centre of the park, he stood out in a poor Wolfsburg side last season – though it’s for the national side where he’s impressed most.
Having chalked up three goals and an assist in the final two qualifying games for Kuntz’s side, he went on to run the show in the middle of the park in the first two Euro 2017 group games – against the Czech Republic and Denmark respectively. While not a spectacular player, he’s a hugely important one. Boothroyd’s men beware.
Serge Gnabry (LM/LW, Werder Bremen)
Having agreed a move to Bayern Munich ahead of next season, it’s clear the former Arsenal youngster is among the continent’s most highly-rated young talents. And there’s no doubt that he’s the absolutely top talent in this strong German side.
The 21-year-old netted 11 times in 27 games from the left-flank in last season’s Bundesliga, as well as recording multiple assists. Strong, dynamic, tricky and possessing a lethal long-range strike, keeping the Stuttgart native quiet will be England’s trickiest test.
However, England right-back Calum Chambers could be the ideal man to stop Gnabry. With the pair having played together in the Arsenal youth set-up, few will know the talented German’s many strengths and possible weak points better than Chambers does.
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