We at OOTB have introduced a new special feature for the U21 European Championship. Many of the players from these tournaments go onto bigger and better things in the future. With the plethora of young talent on show, we will try to compile lists of the best players from each game, to help you keep a better track of the stars of tomorrow. These reports will be detailed Tactical Player Reports to give you a better sense of how these players perform on a football pitch. For more detailed Scout Reports on the best young footballers, click here.
The defending champions Spain went into the game against Germany as favourites. The 2009 winners had to get something out of the game to stay alive in the tournament. A win for Spain, however, would mean curtains for Germany and semis for the Spaniards.
It was a closely fought affair, with no side looking like taking the initiative. It was eventually Spain that looked to get the ball rolling, and seemed to be the better of the two side. Germany did occasionally respond, although the Spaniard looked more likely to score. It was substitute Alvaro Morata that came on as a substitute once again and got a late winning goal.
Although the Germans are now out of the tournament, they can take pride in their efforts. The match itself between the 2009 and 2011 champions was an enthralling battle, with loads of quality on show. The two sides put on a performance worthy of any senior national team.
Tactical Player Reports
In the first game against Russia, Isco had something of a struggle, especially in the first half. He was deployed in the centre, but man marked out of the game. In the second half, he moved over to the left to get more space, and the tweak worked very well, enabling him to influence proceedings. Taking a cue from this, he was, once again started on the left hand side. (Scroll down for the link to the Tactical Player Report of Spain’s 1-0 victory over Russia).
Isco is naturally a very attack minded and creative player. His natural attacking tendencies come to the fore while playing for a side like Spain, who have a lot of the ball, and a lot of willing runners too. He repeatedly cut inside from the left hand side of the pitch, and got into narrow areas to get the ball, and influence play. If anything, his performance in the first half encouraged his coach to let him play a lot more, and he was given something of a free role in the second half.
The most impressive and dangerous aspect of Isco’s game is his dribbling. His touch and close control are quite magnificent. This coupled with his quick thinking and very quick feet mean that Isco tends to beat defenders on a regular basis, creating a lot of chances for himself and his team-mates. 7 dribbles last night alone are testament to his dribbling ability.
Isco also has great pace. Due to the fact that he is so good on the ball, this aspect is often ignored. However, it’s what helps him beat a lot of defenders in the phase after the dribble. Down the wide areas as well, his pace is a useful asset as he looks to beat full backs to deliver crosses.
Needless to say, Isco is quite superb when it comes to passing the ball. 91% is an impressive completion rate for anyone, but it’s even more impressive when it comes from someone who plays most of his football in the opponent’s defensive third.
If Isco can maintain his form, Spain can rightly consider themselves favourites for this tournament. He is one of a galaxy of supremely talented young players from the Iberian nation, and wherever he goes this summer (if he goes), he will be a huge asset.
Scroll down for a more detailed Scout Report on Isco.
The creativity of the Spaniards in midfield was always going to be a threat for the Germans. The Germans lacked this creativity but were more than adept at containing the Spaniards with the solidity of Sebastian Rode and Sebastian Rudy in the centre.
Rode was an absolute work-horse in the German side, showing immense energy & determination to shut out the Spanish youngsters. His constant pressure on the Spaniards made it difficult for the defending champions to have a more telling contribution from midfield. He played the role of a proper enforcer, pressurising the opposition. He worked well to constantly dispose the Spanish players off the ball.
The Frankfurt midfielder successfully attempted 5 tackles in the game, more than any other player on the pitch (Holtby had the same amount). His aggression got the better of him when he received a yellow card for a strong, and unnecessary, tackles just before the 70th minute mark. Rainer Adrion realised that Rode’s aggression could land him in trouble with possible a second yellow. He was withdrawn soon later, and the effect on the team was evident.
Besides his defensive contribution, Rode’s most telling participation came in an attacking phase. The 22-year-old youngster regularly picked up the ball, and with a burst of pace ran at the Spanish defence. There was no stopping the energetic midfielder until he reached the Spanish box and was crowded out. Nevertheless, his threatening bursts from midfield put pressure on the Spanish U21 side, as he looked to add a bit extra to his sides attack.
With 3 crucial points at stake, the European heavyweights Spain and Germany went head to head in what was ultimately a pulsating encounter. Coming off a last gasp 3-2 loss against the Dutch, the Germans were looking for 3 crucial points to keep them at bay. Spain on the other hand had 3 points in the bag already and had a chance to book a place in the semifinals.
The match ended 1-0 with the Spaniards running out deserved winners and Germany disappointingly heading out of the tournament in the group stages. Spain as you would expect dominated possession against Russia but against Germany their play was characterized by a higher tempo. The Germans fought valiantly and like the previous game, were guilty of conceding late on. Spain’s impressive performance was largely due to their midfield performance. Thiago was impressive once again, Illaramendi wonderfully assured and solid and Koke had a decent game after being drafted into the line up. Slightly higher up the pitch, Isco was at his majestic best. However the person I’ll be focusing on is Barcelona’s Cristian Tello.
The Barcelona born winger, started on the right of a front 3 as opposed to the opening game against Russia where he started on the left. The 21 year-old is hardly an unknown commodity in the footballing world having already chalked up 37 appearances for the Catalan club, no mean feat considering the array of talent at the club. Capable of playing anywhere across the front 3 positions the most striking aspect of Tello’s play is an excellent first touch. His ability to stop the ball dead when receiving a pass is exemplary and very rarely will opposing full backs be able to steal the ball away from him due to a loose first touch. When he does get the ball, Tello has the ability to beat his man with skill or pace. Not shy of taking the defender on, Tello executed no less than 4 successful dribbles against Germany, a tally only bettered by Isco (7). One criticism that can be made of his play is that after getting into good positions his decision making and end product is not as good as you would expect. His goal scoring ratio is certainly impressive enough however, as he’s regarded more as a winger, his crossing ability is an area to work on. As Spain move towards the business end of the tournament, Tello could play a pivotal role in how far Spain could go in this tournament.
Alvaro Morata was once again the winner for Spain’s U21 side. The Real Madrid youngster scored his 2nd late goal of the tournament to earn victory for the defending champions. The Spanish have tons of talent among their ranks, but we chose to include Alvaro Morata in our list of players to watch out for prior to the start of the tournament. (Scroll down for the link to the entire list).
Spain U21 1-0 Russia U21: Tactical Player Report
Netherlands U21 3-2 Germany U21: Tactical Player Report
All our Tactical Player Reports for the U21 European Championship
Isco Alcaron: Scout Report
Asier Illarramendi: Scout Report
Inigo Martinez: Scout Report
Thiago Alcantara: Scout Report
Top 10 Players to watch out for at the U21 European Championship