It’s the final of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. Here’s our England vs Spain prediction and preview.
England U21 vs Spain U21: Quick Stats
- England are given a marginally better chance of victory by Opta’s supercomputer, with 35.5% of a win in 90 minutes.
- Lee Carsley’s England side are yet to concede a goal at the tournament.
- Spain U21s are unbeaten in all competitions since Santi Denia replaced Luis de la Fuente in December.
An exciting UEFA European Under-21 Championship is ending with one of Europe’s heavyweights lined up to win it all in Georgia. Is U21 football coming home, or will Spain clinch the outright most wins at the tournament? They are level with Italy on five European U21 Championships, while England are looking to win their third, and first since 1984.
The clash at Adjarabet Arena in Batumi will be the fifth time England and Spain have met at the U21 Euros, and the first since the 2011 group stage. England have won three and drawn one of the last four meetings (W3 D1), including winning both legs of the 1984 final (1-0 away and 2-1 at home). However, in all competitions, Spain have only lost one of their five matches against England at this level since the turn of the millennium (W2 D2). They lost all four meetings prior to 2000.
Lee Carsley has impressed as England U21 manager since being appointed almost two years ago, winning 13 of 15 competitive matches (D1 L1), with his team scoring 36 goals and conceding just seven.
His opposite number, Santi Denia, took over Spain U21s after Luis de la Fuente was promoted to managing the senior team following the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in December. Santi is unbeaten in eight games so far (W5 D3 – one win came after extra time).
His Spain side have particularly impressed when it comes to high turnovers during this tournament, recording 51 so far, 14 more than any other team (France second with 37).
Spain duo Abel Ruiz and Sergio Gómez (five each) are the two players with the most direct goal involvements at this year’s U21 Euros (three goals and two assists each) – the last player to record more than five at the tournament was Luca Waldschmidt of Germany in 2017 (eight).
England have been trying to beat Spain at their own game already. Their 5.2 and Spain’s 5.1 are the highest passes per sequence averages at the tournament, while they also rank first and second for the most 10+ pass sequences in open play (Spain 114 and England 110).
Santi named an unchanged line-up for the semi-final so may well go with the same again, though Carsley brought in Emile Smith Rowe and Cole Palmer to good effect in the last four. He will be without the injured Jacob Ramsey but could opt to recall Noni Madueke, who dropped to the bench against Israel.
Spain U21 1-1 England U21: 12 June 2011 (European U21 Championships)
In their opening game of the 2011 tournament, Spain unsurprisingly dominated much of it. Their team included familiar names such as David de Gea, Thiago Alcântara, Javi Martínez, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata, with César Azpilicueta starting on the bench.
An England side including Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling, Jordan Henderson, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge started well, but fell behind from a corner when Martínez flicked on for Herrera to score at the far post after just 13 minutes, though replays suggested the ball went in off his hand in the days before VAR.
Spain had most of the play after that as they showed off their token patient passing approach, but Luis Milla’s side were unable to seal the win. Walker passed the ball into Welbeck, who turned and shot past De Gea with just two minutes left. Replays showed he was probably offside, so the controversial decisions at least evened themselves out.
Spain went on to win the competition, beating Switzerland 2-0 in the final in Denmark, while Stuart Pearce’s England crashed out in the group stage after following up that draw with a 0-0 against Ukraine and a 2-1 defeat to Czech Republic.
Both teams eased through to the final, with England beating Israel 3-0 thanks to goals from Morgan Gibbs-White, Cole Palmer and Cameron Archer and Spain thrashing Ukraine 5-1, with Abel Ruiz, Oihan Sancet, Antonio Blanco, Aimar Oroz and Sergio Gómez all finding the net.
England haven’t conceded a single goal at the tournament. If they manage another clean sheet in the final, they will set a record for the most at an U21 Euros (six).
There has been plenty of spreading the wealth at the other end as well. Five England players have been directly involved in three or more goals at the U21 Euros (Gibbs-White, Archer, Palmer, Anthony Gordon and Smith Rowe) – the joint-most from any team on record (since 2007), along with Spain in 2019.
Carsley’s men beat Czech Republic, Israel and Germany in the group stage, before a 1-0 win over Portugal in the last eight was followed by that comfortable dismissal again of Israel.
After wins over Romania and Croatia to start things off, Spain drew 2-2 with Ukraine before having to rely on extra time to get past Switzerland in the quarter-finals and then the win big against Ukraine.
England U21: Levi Colwill
After an impressive season on loan at Brighton and Hove Albion, Levi Colwill is one of the most talked about centre-backs in European football. Chelsea apparently want to offer him a new deal to stay at Stamford Bridge and become a key member of Mauricio Pochettino’s side, while Brighton and others line up to try and tempt him away with a promise of regular starts.
It’s clear to see why from his performances in this tournament too. Colwill has dominated at the back for England as he has helped his country keep the ball out of their net for the entire campaign.
Of defenders to play at least three games at the tournament, only the Netherlands’ Jan Paul van Hecke (37.3) has averaged more forward passes per 90 minutes than former Brighton teammate Colwill’s 34.0, while only four defenders have bettered his 2.5 aerial duels won per 90.
Spain U21: Rodri
Not the scorer of the winning goal for Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League final last month but the attacking midfielder from Real Betis who has lit up the tournament for his country.
In fairness, as with England, the secret to success for Santi’s side has been a team effort. No-one has particularly stood out over anyone else. You could make an argument for a number of players to have been their most important.
A final is about key moments though, and Rodri has been making moments for Spain. You have to be a good player to keep Celta Vigo star Gabri Veiga out of the team, and Rodri’s 12 chances created at the tournament is more than any of his teammates, as is his three big chances created. Only Israel’s Oscar Gloukh (33) has attempted more than his 26 dribbles in Romania and Georgia, and the Spaniard boasts a better success rate of 57.7% to Gloukh’s 51.5%.
England U21 vs Spain U21 Prediction
Finals are so often close affairs, and that could very well be the case again here. According to our predictor, there is just 1% between the two teams, with England coming in slightly ahead at 35.5% to win in 90 minutes, while Spain are given a 34.5% chance.
Due to that closeness, there is a relatively high 30% chance of this one going to extra time.
England U21 vs Spain U21 Squads
England: James Trafford, Josh Griffiths, Carl Rushworth; Max Aarons, Luke Thomas, Levi Colwill, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Jarrad Branthwaite, Charlie Cresswell, Ben Johnson; Oliver Skipp, Morgan Gibbs-White, Jacob Ramsey, James Garner, Curtis Jones, Tommy Doyle, Harvey Elliott, Cole Palmer, Angel Gomes, Noni Madueke; Cameron Archer, Emile Smith Rowe, Anthony Gordon.
Spain: Arnau Tenas, Julen Agirrezabala, Leo Román; Victor Gómez, Juan Miranda, Hugo Guillamón, Jon Pacheco, Arnau Martinez, Aitor Paredes, Mario Gila, Sergio Gómez, Manu Sánchez; Antonio Blanco, Rodrigo Riquelme, Oihan Sancet, Rodri, Álex Baena, Gabri Veiga, Aimar Oroz, Adrián Bernabé; Abel Ruiz, Ander Barrenetxea, Sergio Camello.