Lewis Holtby
Holtby will captain Germany Under-21's in their pursuit of glory. (Reuters)

Featuring perhaps three of this month's Under-21-European Championships favourites, Group B undeniably has the most tantalising contests of the group stages on offer.

The same three nations happen to be three of the four semi-finalists from the 2010 World Cup. Are the latest products of some of Europe's most refined youth systems ready to make a senior claim ahead of Rio next year?

IBTimes UK continues its breakdown of this year's competition, looking at the fiercely competitive Group B.


The winners of the 2009 Under-21 European Championship arrive in Israel after a season where German football has risen to the top of the European elite. The unerring efficiency combined with a fresh verve and attacking prowess that came to define the best of the Bundesliga has been a long time coming, something Germany have spent the best part of ten years working on at a national level.

The class of 2009 who memorably demolished England in the final in Malmo provided an unnerving insight into what the latest breed of German footballer can bring. Four years on from that final, Bayern Munich duo Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer all started in this season's Champions League final, while Real Madrid's Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil have not fared too badly either. With the exception of the Dortmund duo, all four of burgeoning talents from that 2009 group would impress when the senior sides met a year later in the 2010 World Cup, where the gulf in class on show defined how much success this tournament can breed.

The fact that the nation's most impressive teenage talent in Julian Draxler was omitted from the U21 squad due to his senior team commitments effectively says it all, but Tottenham fans will recognise a familiar face in Lewis Holtby, who will captain the young Germans.


Two time winners of this competition, the always vibrant Dutch outfit are looking to deliver an impact with a number of their young stars having already imposed themselves on Louis van Gaal's senior Oranje side. Whether that is a measure of the depth of talent available is debatable, but with the likes of Stefan De Vrij, Jordy Clasie, Kevin Strootman, Marco van Ginkel and Luuk de Jong some to have already featured at senior level, it bodes well for the nation's chances in Israel.

Now a comparative veteran of the Under-21 ranks, Georgino Wijnaldum will likely have a key role to play in Holland's assault on the competition. The attacking midfielder has steadily grown into an integral member of the his PSV Eindhoven side that narrowly missed out on this year's Eredivisie title, where his 14 league goals made him the club's third top scorer in the league.

Jordy Clasie

While stars of the nation's previous successes such as Ryan Babel, Urby Emanuelson, Royston Drenthe and Maceo Rigters have failed to fulfil the glittering potential they exhibited in 2006 and 2007, this experienced Dutch bunch will be keen to keep their senior counterparts on their toes ahead of Rio next summer.


Russia's hopes of progressing from the terribly competitive Group B were handed an immeasurable boost with the news that Alan Dzagoev, the star of the senior team in Euro 2012, has been drafted in. The attacking midfielder is unavailable for his side's opener against Spain due to his required presence in the senior side's crucial World Cup qualifier against Portugal the following day, but his knack for scoring important goals could prove to be vital to his nation's chances of progressing later on in the group phase.

Having dismissed Portugal and Poland en route to the finals, Nikolai Pisarev's squad are not without other options. Without the talismanic Dzagoev for their opener, Russia may look to their own diminutive Spanish starlet in Denis Cheryshev.

The Russian born but Spanish raised winger is on Real Madrid's books, regularly featuring for the club's second string Castilla outfit. With three goals and two assists in qualifying, the 22-year-old could provide the craft needed in the group's key opener.


While many have attempted to copy Spain's blueprint to success, few have succeeded. The tournament's reigning champions enter with a squad featuring five players from the group who lifted the trophy in Denmark in 2011. By the same token, almost half of Spain's likely starling 11 this week were also attracting envious glances from the rest of Europe in Spain's U19 European campaign in 2010, where Sergio Canales, Thiago Alcantara, Rodrigo, Marc Bartra and Martín Montoya all featured in a vibrant squad that were unfortunate to lose in the final to France.

This competition is the last opportunity some members of this squad will have to represent their nation at this level, and after sauntering to the finals with a sublime record of nine wins and one draw, a farewell challenge can be expected.

Thiago Alcantara
Barcelona's Alcantara will likely have a number of clubs following his progress in the coming weeks. (Reuters)

A look at the squad speaks volumes of the pedigree of each player despite their tender ages, and an insight to why perhaps England are still light years behind their Spanish counterparts. Of the Spanish contingent, Iñigo Martínez and Asier Illarramendi of Real Sociedad, Canales of Valencia, Koke of Atletico Madrid and Ignacio Camacho and Isco of Champions League quarter finalists Malaga are all genuine first team players for their clubs, all of who incidentally finished in the top six of La Liga last season. Bayer Leverkusen's Daniel Carvajal, Benfica's Rodrigo and David de Gea of Manchester United have all done likewise across the continent.

The measure of experience at the highest level in Julen Lopetegui's squad is likely to play a defining factor throughout this competiton.