DECLAN WARRINGTON / AIPS** in OLOMOUC: Today’s first UEFA U21 Euro semi-final, between Portugal and Germany in Olomouc, is a sort of final before The Final.
These two teams have impressed more than any of the other six in this year’s tournament and, barring injuries or suspensions, the winners will be considered favourites in Tuesday’s showdown regardless of their opposition.
Italy and Denmark may also have impressed during the group stage but it is Germany, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Emre Can and Max Meyer, and Portugal, and more specifically William Carvalho, Joao Mario and Tiago Illori, with the greatest potential.
Minimal history bonds these two nations at under-21 level; in four fixtures against Portugal, Germany have never won.
However the Germans are past winners of this tournament – manager Horst Hrubesch also led them to victory in 2009 – while Rui Jorge’s Portugal have never improved on their 1994 finish as runners up.
With Liverpool midfielder Can recovered from a calf problem, Germany have a fully-fit squad.
Hrubesch said: “Now, the pressure is off. Of course we want to go to the final but we have achieved our minimum objective: we’re in the semi-final and have achieved qualification for the Olympics.
“No-one can be underestimated. We just look to ourselves and try to do our best. Every team can win it and we’ll certainly try to do that ourselves. I trust my players and they trust me and that’s a strong combination.”
Both Hrubesh and Portugal coach Artur Jorge matched each other in mutual “respect” even down to using the word itself.
Jorge said: “I have tried several times to say that in my view the teams are very even, there are no favourites here, only games that can go your way or their way.
“You always need a bit of luck to be successful and we have had our share so far. Having said that, we are where we always wanted to be and we are looking forward to everything that is still ahead of us.”
Illori is a doubt after injuring a thigh in the 1-1 draw with Sweden but he trained with his team-mates and is expected to be available.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and is co-operating with UEFA in running a Young Reporters course at UEFA U21 EURO in the Czech Republic. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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