England head to Italy and San Marino as the bookmakers’ narrow favourites in the European under-21 Championship tournament that kicks off tomorrow. The Young Lions can be found at 4/1 as the top price.
There are 12 nations, including record winners and hosts Italy, and defending champions Germany, spread among three groups.
The winner of each group plus the two best runners-up will progress to the semi-finals and qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games. However, England are ineligible to qualify for the Olympics, so should Aidy Boothroyd’s team reach the semi-finals of this tournament a special play-off match between the two other runners-up would determine the fourth spot.
England open with a tough match against France on Tuesday at the Stadio Dino Manuzzi in Cesena. France collected the most points in qualifying, winning their first nine matches before drawing their final one. Les Bleus are also the reigning World Cup champions at senior level.
The tournament offers some of the best young talent around Europe. A number of scouts from clubs across the globe are expected to attend in order to find the next top talent for their domestic clubs.
This year’s European under-21 Championship kicks off on Sunday with Poland facing Belgium, before culminating in the final at the Dacia Arena in Udine on Sunday 30 June.