The U21 European Championships is reaching its peak with Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, and Germany set to play the semi-finals on Thursday the 3rd of June.
Monday the 31st of May held an action-packed evening of young football talent as the quarterfinals of the competition held in Hungary and Slovenia commenced.
The four matches contained some serious prodigies in football such as Justin Kluivert and Ibrahim Konaté who were unlucky not to get the call up for their senior sides for the Euros later this month but still had a chance of winning silverware.
Over the years this competition has shown to be great steppingstone for up and coming players and has enhanced the reputations of stars like Asensio, Saul and William Carvalho in recent years.
Netherlands v France
This match began with both sides showing bright attacking sparks with French defender Dayot Upamecano leaping highest to score from a corner in the 23rd minute.
France looked the more threatening team with Leeds stopper Meslier having little to do while Dutch keeper Bijlow proved very capable at keeping out French shots.
The Dutch found an equaliser six minutes into the second half as a mishit shot landed at the feet of Boadu with acres of space to place the ball into the corner.
France went straight back on the attack with Jonathon Ikoné as a skilful threat. The French would rue the great chances missed by Aouor and Edouard to win the game.
In added time, a Dutch counterattack let Kluivert pick out Boadu from a cross, the AZ Alkmaar forward made no mistake in lofting the ball past the helpless Meslier.
The Netherlands held on for a memorable victory in Budapest as a very talented French side were knocked out.
Spain v Croatia
Spain approached the match in Maribor as clear favourites having had a team in both of the last two u21 Euro finals while the Croatian team needed a late winner against England to make it to the quarterfinals.
The Spanish quality was on full show as they dominated the majority of the game but struggled to convert chances past the Croatian keeper Semper.
It took until after the hour mark for Spanish substitute Puado to capitalise on a poorly cleared cross to give Spain the lead.
The game became slow as Spain felt they had the victory secured until in the fourth minute of added time when Croatian winger Majer went down in the box to a tug from Guillamon.
The referee signalled for a penalty which Croatian captain Ivanusec powered into the top left corner sending the game to extra time.
As the players grew tired in extra time, a long ball from Cucurella put Puado through on goal as he rounded the keeper and defenders to get his second goal and Spain’s winner.
Denmark v Germany
One of the games of the tournament took until the 69th minute before the deadlock was broken with 17-year-old Danish substitute Faghir finishing from a cross.
Germany were able to level the scoring with two minutes to play as Nmecha’s acrobatic shot beat Denmark’s keeper and the game went to extra time.
Burkardt gave Germany the lead 10 minutes into extra time as he chested down a cross and bolted a shot past Christensen.
After the restart, a mazy run from Danish forward Isaksen led to him being fouled in the Germany box and Nelsson blasting home the resulting penalty.
Both teams had great chances to win the game in the last few moments, but the game would be decided by penalties.
After 14 penalties were taken, Dahmen proved decisive saving two penalties for Germany and Paul Jaeckel scoring the winning kick to send the Germans to another U21 Euro’s semi-finals.
Portugal v Italy
The scoring was opened in this eight-goal thriller by a wonderful bicycle kick shot by Dany Mota for Portugal in the 6th minute.
After half an hour Portugal doubled their lead with Mota’s second goal, powering a shot into the net after a corner kick routine.
Italy fought back just before half time as Pobega tapped home with Portugal sat flat footed for a corner.
Ramos extended Portugal’s lead before the hour mark calmly placing a volley passed the outstretched Carnesecchi.
The match became a game of ping pong as within a minute Scamacca found a goal back for Italy, passing the ball into the net from a low cross.
Italy were desperate for an equaliser which came with two minutes left in play by Valencia striker, Patrick Cutrone, redirecting a cross passed the keeper’s near post.
Within a minute of extra time, Italy were down to ten men when Lovato was shown a second yellow for an elbow that forced Scamacca off the pitch injured.
Portugal remained the dominant side for the rest of the game with Jota and Conceicao finding the winning goals to send the Italy home and Portugal to the semi-finals.
There is still a chance of a repeat of the 2019 and 2017 competitions as Spain and Germany have contested both finals. Spain have entered this competition as reigning champions.
The semi-finals are set to be played on Thursday the 3rd of June with Spain facing off against Portugal and the Netherlands playing Germany.