Friday, June 26, 2009

Semi-final day in Sweden

It's do or die now as the UEFA U21 enters its semi-final stage.Semi-final day in Sweden.

Germany tackle the Italians in Helsingborg while a tasty clash is on the menu in Gothenburg, where a sell-out crowd is expected for Sweden v England.

A united Germany has yet to reach the finals while Italy have featured in five of the last nine u21 finals, winning four of them.

Sweden will be hoping to maintain the momentum which saw them win a bruising battle (the referee flashed two red and ten yellow cards) against the highly-rated Serbs 3-1 in their final group game. The crowd in Malmo was almost 20,000, raising hopes that the New Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg, with its 18,800 seats, will be the first venue in the competition to witness a sell -out.

England must beware the telepathic Dutch-based striking duo of Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen, who have bagged seven goals in three games, but England's aces look more than capable of eliminating the hosts.

Stuart Pearce witnessed his B-team, with ten changes from the eleven who had beaten Spain, outplay Germany's first team in Halmstad and fight to a 1-1 finish to qualify as group winners.

"Other than they goal they snatched we had the game in control and were comfortable that whole match," England right-winger Andrew Driver told Soccerphile.

"We came to this tournament with a strong 23 and I think we showed tonight that no-one will disappoint. The boys are very confident. You have to take every game as it comes obviously and take that momentum into the next game but we are brimming with confidence."

"The team has done really well and we have shown that there is a lot of depth in the squad." Chelsea's England centre-back Michael Mancienne told Soccerphile.

Mancienne was sent off in England's opener against Finland but after serving his one-game suspension and playing 90 minutes against Germany, he is now relishing the showdown with the Swedes.


"The momentum is good and we are looking forward to the game," he said. "It has been a really good camp for us. All the boys are really close. Having been a great defender, Stuart Pearce gives me a lot of good advice so he has been really great to work under too.

Obviously Sweden are the home nation but they are all tough teams from now on."

The final is in Malmo on Monday.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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