Jun 5, 2013, 11:48 AM EDT
Today in Israel, the UEFA Under-21 European Championships begins with a whole host of top soccer nations vying for success.
Spain, Italy, Holland, Germany and England will start as the favorites from the eight teams who qualified for the finals.
The two groups of four teams are as follows.
In Group A hosts Israel are joined by Norway, Italy and England.
While Group B is incredibly tough, with reigning champions Spain alongside Holland, Germany and Russia. Wow. This will be fun.
This tournament has produced plenty of gems in the past, with the likes of Juan Mata, Petr Cech, Andrea Pirlo and Luis Figo all wining the player of the tournament award in U-21 championships gone by.
This 2013 tournament is no different, with David de Gea, Isco, Rodrigo, Wilfried Zaha, Tom Ince, Lewis Holtby, Marco Verratti, Fabio Borini and Luuk de Jong all on show.
So Spain will undoubtedly be the favorites to lift their second straight U-21 title, thanks to the vast array of talent they have in their ranks, but Holland and Germany are hot on their heels in Group B.
While England kick off their campaign against Italy this afternoon (ESPN U, 2:20pm ET) with head coach Stuart Pearce confident of success. “They have got a good spirit about themselves. We go in with a good record, on the back of nine games not conceding a goal, so confidence is strong.”
England have been in superb form in qualifying and despite several absentees through injury and other issues, they should give a good account of themselves and at least make it to the semifinals. The tournament will be played in four venues across Israel, check out those impressive stadiums here.
The top two teams from each group will make it to the semifinals, and it will be a tight tournament with the proud soccer nations desperate to grab the prestigious tag of Under-21 champions of Europe.
All-time, Italy lead the way with five titles, Spain have three, while England Holland and Russia have all won two U-21 titles. Plenty will be on the line as the much coveted tournament kicks off in the far eastern corner of the Mediterranean.
The fixtures for the entire competition are below, so make sure you keep an eye out for some of Europe’s up and coming stars. This is the best place to spot them.
European Under-21 Championship fixtures
Wed Israel v Norway (Netanya)
Wed England v Italy (Tel Aviv)
Sat England v Norway (Petah T)
Sat Italy v Israel (Tel Aviv)
Tues Israel v England (Jerusalem)
Tues Norway v Italy (Tel Aviv)
Thurs Spain v Russia (Jerusalem)
Thurs Netherlands v Germany (Petah Tikva)
Sun Netherlands v Russia (Jerusalem)
Sun Germany v Spain (Netanya)
12 Jun Spain v Netherlands (Petah T)
12 Jun Russia v Germany (Netanya)
15 Jun Winner Group A v Runner-up Group B (Netanya)
15 Jun Winner Group B v Runner-up Group A (Petah Tikva)
Final 18 Jun Jerusalem
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