The 2019 European Under-21 Championship is set to be one of the most keenly-contested underage tournaments in years as the competition favourites change on a daily basis for the curtain-raiser on June 16.
Holders Germany are among the names talked about as possible champions, but have a completely different squad from two years ago with players such as Serge Gnabry (£1.27) and Thilo Kehrer (£0.52) having graduated into the senior team. Mahmoud Dahoud (£0.45), Nadiem Amiri (£0.67), and Levin Oztunali (£0.31) are back to defend their title, but the other 20 players are all newcomers to the tournament and will carry the hopes of the nation on their shoulders.
More pressure is on this U21 panel to succeed due to the disappointment of World Cup 2018, meaning fans are looking for the next stars of the senior side who can win this tournament and then get catapulted into the Euro 2020 squad.
The Germany squad is full of players determined to impress, including many who are already stars at club level, so who should you keep an eye out for in Italy and San Marino this month?
Alexander Nubel – Schalke
Germany have three solid goalkeepers in their squad, with all battling to start for head coach Stefan Kuntz. Schalke stopper Nubel started in qualifying and his Bundesliga experience in 2018-19 will see him retain his place for the U21 Championship. He displaced club captain Ralf Fahrmann at Schalke and established himself as the undisputed number one in the second half of the season. Nubel has just one year left on his contract at the Veltins-Arena and has been attracting attention from Bayern Munich as they look for a Manuel Neuer successor.
Jonathan Tah (£1.26) – Bayer Leverkusen
Three of Germany’s squad this time have already won senior caps – and all three are defenders, meaning Die Mannschaft are likely to be watertight at the back. Leverkusen’s Tah is the oldest and most experienced with eight full international appearances already. He only joined up with the U21 squad after Germany’s Euro 2020 qualifiers and is a key member of Joachim Low’s panel already. A first-choice centre-back at Leverkusen, Tah will play in the Champions League next season, having helped them finish fourth in the Bundesliga.
Maximilian Eggestein (£0.62) – Werder Bremen
One of two Eggestein brothers in the Werder Bremen squad – and in the Germany U21 squad – Maxi Eggestein came up through the ranks at Bremen and just earlier this year was rewarded with a new contract at the club. He has missed just one Bundesliga game over the past two seasons and is central to Bremen’s attacking build-up. He also improved his goalscoring return in 2018-19, finishing with five league goals from 34 appearances in central midfield – one more goal than forward Jojo Eggestein ended up with!
Nadiem Amiri (£0.67) – Hoffenheim
One of the 2017 squad, Amiri was a late substitute in the final, playing just nine minutes as Germany beat Spain 1-0 to lift the title. He will likely get more gametime this campaign, having recovered from an injury which kept him out of the first half of the Bundesliga season. He finished the season strongly with three goals and an assist in the last five games but injury ruled him out of the final match as Hoffenheim lost to Mainz and missed out on Europe. Amiri will be determined not to miss this chance to impress, especially as he has been linked to Bayer Leverkusen.
Lukas Nmecha – Manchester City
Hamburg-born Nmecha played for England at every age level from Under-16 through Under-21, but switched allegiance to Germany earlier this year. He won the European Under-19 Championship in 2017 with England so victory this summer would see him create quite an unusual CV. The 20-year-old forward spent last season on loan from Man City at Preston North End, but scored just three Championship goals. A strong U21 Championship would help him receive offers from better clubs as Man City are likely to loan him out again next season, with Borussia Monchengladbach among the interested parties.