England’s Under 21s launch their bid to become European champions this summer with Sky Sports again providing extensive live coverage of the UEFA U-21 Championship in Israel.
The biennal eight-team tournament gets underway on Wednesday, June 5, with the final taking place just under three weeks later in Jerusalem, on Tuesday, June 18.
Stuart Pearce’s in-form England side are in Group A along with the host nation, as well as Norway and Italy, while a heavyweight Group B contains holders Spain along with Russia, Netherlands and Germany.
Despite some high-profile calls to boycott the competition since Israel was announced as host, four of the country’s largest cities will stage fixtures – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya and Petah Tikva – in temperatures of up to 35 degrees celsius.
It is the fourth consecutive UEFA U21 Championship for which England have qualified – a feat unmatched by any other side in Europe.
England’s U21 side have been unbeaten since 2011 and arrive in Israel among the tournament favourites, though the field is a strong one.
Stuart Pearce has named a strong squad for his fourth consecutuve European U21 Championship as England boss.
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Manchester United’s Wilfried Zaha and Blackpool’s Tom Ince are all set to feature for the Three Lions.
As well as England’s brightest stars, the next generation of players from Germany, Spain, Russia, Norway, Netherlands, Italy and Israel will take centre stage.
Three of European football’s elite nations – Germany, Italy and the Netherlands – return to the U21 championship fold having failed to qualify for the 2011 championship in Denmark.
The timing of the tournament, however, will cause a headache for those countries who have competitive senior commitments.
Norway, for example, have named three players in their squad who will not arrive until their final group match against Italy as they are also in the senior side who have a World Cup qualifying match against Albania on June 7.
England have no such worries, but eligible players such as Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain travelled with the senior squad to Brazil for a friendly prior to the tournament and are therefore unavailable, while Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling and Callum McManaman are injured.
Spain and Italy, as was the case four years ago, must cope with having to play in two tournaments at once, with the second half of the U21 Championship overlapping with the group matches of the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.
This cost Spain dearly in 2009 when eligible players Gerard Piqué, Cesc Fàbregas, Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos, David Silva and Juan Mata were all at the Confederations Cup in South Africa.
A denuded U21 squad drew with Germany but lost their second match against England and failed to make it through the group stage.
Italy must cope without young Milan forwards Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy, who will be in Brazil but will have Paris St-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti and Roma striker Mattia Destro available in Israel.
The Netherlands have a strong squad, with the tournament evidently being prioritized over the seniors’ tour to Asia to play friendlies against Indonesia and China.
Defenders Daley Blind, Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij all started the last World Cup qualifier against Romania in March, while midfielders Kevin Strootman, Adam Maher and Jordy Clasie all have recent experience with the senior side.
Standout matches include England’s opening fixture against Italy (June 5), the perpetual grudge match between the Netherlands and Germany (June 6) and a potentially decisive final group stage encounter for the Dutch against Spain (June 12).
Sky Sports will have exclusive UK television coverage of the tournament in Israel, while BBC Radio 5 live will provide live commentaries of every England match.
Preview by MIKE MARTIN – @thefootietweet
If you’re missing the football season already or ruing the lack of a major international tournament this summer, fear not.
Sky Sports has complete coverage of the UEFA Under-21 Championships, including all the group matches, semi-finals and final, from June 5 through to June 18.
David Jones and Pete Graves will share presenting duties for all 15 games during the tournament, while Martin Tyler leads the commentary team in Israel.
Fans can keep up-to-date with all the latest news, scores, results and analysis from the tournament via the Sky Sports website.
In addition to exclusive TV coverage, Sky Sports subscribers can can watch every game on Sky Go via their computer, mobile or tablet.
Wednesday 5th June ISRAEL v NORWAY – Group A Kick-off: 17:00 | Netanya LIVE: 4.30pm-7.15pm – Sky Sports 2 ENGLAND v ITALY – Group A Kick-off: 19:30 | Tel Aviv LIVE: 7.15pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Thursday 6th June SPAIN v RUSSIA – Group B Kick-off: 17:00 | Jerusalem LIVE: 4.45pm-7.15pm – Sky Sports 2 NETHERLANDS v GERMANY – Group B Kick-off: 19:30 | Petah Tikva LIVE: 7.15pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Saturday 8th June ENGLAND v NORWAY – Group A Kick-off: 17:00 | Petah Tikva LIVE: 4.30pm-7.15pm – Sky Sports 2 ITALY v ISRAEL – Group A Kick-off: 19:30 | Tel Aviv LIVE: 7.15pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Sunday 9th June NETHERLANDS v RUSSIA – Group B Kick-off: 17:00 | Jerusalem LIVE: 4.55pm-7.15pm – Sky Sports 2 GERMANY v SPAIN – Group B Kick-off: 19:30 | Netanya LIVE: 7.15pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Tuesday 11th June ISRAEL v ENGLAND – Group A Kick-off: 17:00 | Jerusalem LIVE: 4.30pm-8.00pm – Sky Sports 2 NORWAY v ITALY – Group A Kick-off: 17:00 | Tel Aviv LIVE: Sky Sports 2 Red Button Wednesday 12th June SPAIN v NETHERLANDS – Group B Kick-off: 17:00 | Petah Tikva LIVE: 4.45pm-8.00pm – Sky Sports 2 RUSSIA v GERMANY – Group B Kick-off: 17:00 | Netanya LIVE: Sky Sports 2 Red Button Saturday 15th June Winner Group A v Runner-up Group B – Semi Final 1 Kick-off: 16:30 | Netanya LIVE: 4.00pm-7.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Winner Group B v Runner-up Group A – Semi Final 2 Kick-off: 19:30 | Petah Tikva LIVE: 7.00pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Tuesday 18th June UEFA Under-21 Championship Final 2013 Kick-off: 17:00 | Jerusalem LIVE: 4.30pm-7.30pm – Sky Sports 1 . . .