Sweden U21 v England U21
Friday 16th June, 17:00
Live on Sky Sports 1
After England U20s ended 51 years of hurt to bring the trophy home from the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea at the weekend, it is now the turn of Aidy Boothroyd's Under-21s to keep the nation dreaming of senior glory in the near future.
Gareth Southgate will be in the stands as the Young Lions open their 2017 European Championship account against defending champions Sweden in Kielce and England have been chalked up as warm 1.82 favourites to kick-off their campaign with a victory.
The Young Lions finished rock-bottom of their group in each of their past three tournaments, winning just one of their nine encounters. Ironically, that sole success came at Euro 2015 against the Swedes, who went onto win the tournament.
Slow starts and burn out have often been blamed for England's poor performance but they arrive with a strong squad, loaded with top-flight experience. And the pre-match jollies arrive in decent nick having suffered only five losses in 25 since 2015, winning on 18 occasions.
Boothroyd's team secured their spot at the top table thanks to an unbeaten qualification route (W6-D2-L0) and boast a solid spine with gifted goalkeeper Jordan Pickford playing behind the likes of Arsenal duo Rob Holding and Calum Chambers plus the supply of James Ward-Prowse and pace of Southampton club mate Nathan Redmond.
Sweden 5.10 head coach Hakan Ericson opted to leave some of their more experienced players at home, which means there is no place in the squad for Manchester United-bound Victor Lindelof nor Borussia Dortmund wonderkid Alexander Isak. But there's still plenty of potential on show.
Playmaker Kristoffer Olsson and mooted Arsenal target Joel Osoro will be among the leading lights with the latter's pace and power an obvious threat to the English defence. Meanwhile, former Gunners academy player Olsson possesses the technique and vision to hurt opposition defences.
At 21, Olsson's already made a major impact for club side AIK this season and should the vice captain find his range, the Blue-Yellow most certainly have the capacity to stretch the Young Lions backline and make a mockery of their generous Match Odds.
Ericson's group finished above Spain in qualifying (W7-D3-L0) and have the added advantage of their players being relatively fresh as their Allsvenskan league season is only 12 games old. Although the Blue-Yellow have W1-D0-L2 this term, I believe they're a touch underrated here and offer a slice of value.
We can back Sweden or Draw in the Double Chance market at 2.18 and I also like the idea of backing Both Teams To Score at 1.82. Unlike major senior tournaments, opening group games at this level tend to be reasonably open with nine (56%) of the past 16 over the previous four competitions featuring successful BTTS selections.
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