England are out in front, the Netherlands and France not far behind, Portugal are chasing a unique treble and the goals have been flying in: Daniel Thacker sums up week one at U19 EURO.
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Advantage England ...
The only side still boasting a 100% record at the UEFA EUropean Under-19 Championship, and the sole team assured of a semi-final berth, England have to be considered favourites to lift the trophy. Although they have conceded in both games so far, Aidy Boothroyd's tyros are capable of outscoring anyone, with Oluwaseyi Ojo, Dominic Solanke, Isaiah Brown, Joshua Onomah, Tammy Abraham and Ademola Lookman all competing for places in the forward line.
"It's an 18-man squad and we believe that we have to be ready to play all 18 players," said Boothroyd after Brown came from the bench to score an added-time winner against Netherlands, keeping alive the 2014 U17 EURO winners' bid for a unique age-group double.
... but don't discount the Netherlands or France
The victor of Monday's Group B meeting between the Netherlands and France will reach the last four; the loser will drop into the FIFA U-20 World Cup play-off, with whoever gets to the semis likely to be second favourites behind the team that has beaten them both, England.
True to tradition, the Dutch – who only require a draw as they lead France on goals scored – possess a number of fine, intelligent attackers and one of the most clinical strikers at the tournament in Sam Lammers. For their part, France are in good shape defensively and can rely on Jean-Kévin Augustin for goals.
Can Portugal fire their way to triple glory?
Portugal coach Emilio Peixe masterminded a memorable 4-3 victory defeat of hosts Germany on Thursday evening, a result that means a point against Italy tomorrow will ensure the Selecção youngsters a semi-final spot.
Should Portugal go on to win the tournament, it would complete an unprecedented treble: the senior side won UEFA EURO 2016 earlier this month, while the U17s were crowned continental champions in May (Spain did hold all three titles briefly in 2008, taking the U17 and senior trophies having won the 2007 U19s).
Germany could still give home fans reason for cheer
"We need to give it our all now so that we can achieve our minimum aim of reaching the World Cup," said tournament top scorer Phillipp Ochs after Germany were knocked out of semi-final contention. Unfortunate to lose the opening game against Italy, Guido Streichsbier's charges were naïve against Portugal and caught out by the visitors' well-executed counterattacks.
That said, Ochs and midfielder Benjamin Henrichs have enjoyed good personal tournaments, while few would bet against others stepping up to ensure that Germany rescue a World Cup place from disappointment and give the home fans something to cheer.
The future's bright
With the tournament averaging three goals per game, there has been no shortage of entertainment in Baden-Wurttemberg. There is yet to be a goalless draw, while Portugal's swashbuckling seven-goal thriller against Germany in Grossaspach was one of the most enjoyable games I've ever attended. Despite the goal glut, though, the Italians still boast the tournament's best defence. Plus ça change ...