Spain, Germany seek redemption in Euro U20 final
Background image: Fuarceudin1896, CC BY 1.0
It’s safe to say 2018 wasn’t the most profitable year for Germany or Spain. Both faced embarrassing World Cup campaigns. Being knocked out in the group stages and Round of 16 respectively left many red-faced.
Internal problems including Julen Lopetegui talking shop with Real Madrid and Mesut Ozil accusing officials within the DFB of racism hampered generational transitions. France and Belgium happily filled the void.
It's possible that Die Mannschaft and La Furia's falls may just be stumbles, however. While the senior squads revamp, the juniors pounce on every opportunity.
When viewing Germany and Spain's impressive U21 Euro campaigns, problems are nowhere to be seen. Despite their dwindling reputations, 12 and 14 goals respectively en route to the final highlight their dominating nature. That said, only one can come away with bragging rights to the future today.
In 2017, the young Germans glossed over their elders' failure in France. Some current Spanish participants like Dani Ceballos and Jesus Vallejo still seek closure from that defeat. No one wants to be associated with the 'chokers' label back-to-back finals defeats can bring. Don't ask Lionel Messi about his recent Copa America history. For two nations under heavy scrutiny, losing really isn’t an option.
After the World Cup failure, winning at the junior level can restore the lustre to the victors. Joachim Loew’s decision to axe experienced players like Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels invited stark criticism. Only Die Mannschaft’s excellence at the youth level can justify his gamble. Despite slipping out the top 10 in the FIFA Rankings, flourishing world-class talents are on the way to return the side to business as usual.
Germany struggled with goals in the World Cup but the youngsters are making it look like child's play. Freiburg’s Luca Waldschmidt is the tournament's top scorer, netting seven in four. Timo Werner must be looking on nervously. Loew could be tracking his next great number nine.
Bundesliga originals Marco Richter, Mahmoud Dahoud and Maximilian Eggestein sparkled up front for Stefan Kuntz’s dynamic attack. Even Nadeem Amiri, who netted a crucial brace in his only start in the semifinals against Romania, proved just how deep the talent pool is.
In recent years, Spain suffered an identity crisis. No one has replicated Vicente Del Bosque’s majestic work. Internal problems and managerial changes haven’t helped. That said, new La Furia manager Robert Moreno must admire what U21s boss Luis de la Fuente has accomplished. Despite an initial hiccup against hosts Italy, La Rojita employed their beautiful, scintillating style to sweep aside opposition en route to their second consecutive U-21 Euros final.
At the heart of the squad, Dani Ceballos makes things look too easy. His time in the Real Madrid first team appears to have transformed him into a man among boys.. The whirly, creative midfielder is a beacon of magic. If he can produce something special in the finale, he might do more than impress Moreno. Zinedine Zidane might halt his chase for a marquee midfielder.
Up front for De la Fuente, Pablo Fornals is showing promise for new employers, West Ham United. La Liga regulars Mikel Oyrazabal and Borja Mayoral add to the fun while recently unearthed gems Daniel Olmo and Marc Roca are also proving dangerous.
La Rojita surely can’t afford to fail the second time. They’ve clearly come prepared for what lies beyond their comfort zone with a peach batch of multi-talented players. Die Mannschaft, on the other hand, needs to maintain their reputation for producing the best young players to silence doubters. As the two behemoths clash again, the next golden generation to dominate Europe may reveal itself.