The Under 21 European Championship is not a useful test for understanding the health of football movements

The Under 21 European Championship is not a useful test for understanding the health of football movements

Photo Ap, via LaPresse

through to the knockout stage

Marco Gaetani

Part of the national selections of countries with a long football tradition did not qualify for the quarterfinals of the European review. But be careful to generalize

Georgia-Israel, England-Portugal, Spain-Switzerland, France-Ukraine. Here they are, lined up, the eight strongest Under-21 national teams in Europe, the ones who will compete not only for the European title, but also for passes to Paris 2024. While on the one hand Italy continues to pine for an alarming performance (last win in 2004, only one final in 19 years badly lost against Spain in 2013), on the other hand we must inevitably register as the appeal lacks a large part of the football aristocracy of the Old Continent: Germany, which won the title two years ago, has remedied the pittance of a point in its group; Holland and Belgium finished behind Georgia and Portugal; Croatia were in Group B alongside Romania.

The analysis, however, cannot focus solely on the result: there are days, weeks, in which the issue of failure is at the center of the sporting debate as it had never been in the past, from the river conference of Giannis Antetokounmpo at the time of his Milwaukee Bucks' elimination from the NBA playoffs to the much more recent one of Ettore Messina, which however came immediately after winning the title at the helm of Olimpia Milano: "I cannot convince those who believe that losing a Game 7 is a failure and win a triumph. According to this criterion, there is one who wins and fifteen who lose: that's not the case, we compete, this is the concept of sport. If we are a society that has led to the aberration of this concept, I don't have the moral stature to change things”.

Trying to get out, therefore, from the yoke of the result at all costs, it is the case to verify how each elimination is different. Let's think, for example, of Germany, which leaves the tournament very badly: on the German side, however, there was no desire to seek qualification for Paris at all costs, even though it is considered important. Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, both 2003, were not brought to the Under 21 European Championship despite being widely eligible for the squad, as well as Malick Thiaw, 2001 who would have been useful for the German defense, or Karim Adeyemi, striker from 2002. The criticisms in Germany were not lacking and Joti Chatzialexiou, the manager of the national teams, exposed himself firsthand, who also made it a speech on the formation of the spirit of young footballers: "Perhaps there is a need for a different degree of hardness, we educate too much sweetly our players. We know that the Olympics would have been invaluable, in terms of experience, for our boys. This Under 21 team didn't play well, but I don't want to bury German football: a few weeks ago our Under 17s became European champions, a great generation is coming".

Then there's Holland, which also experiences a fast that is in some ways worse than ours, having not even qualified for five of the last eight European championships. But whoever is in the senior national team, on a more or less stable basis, has remained there: from Botman to Xavi Simons, passing through Timber and Jeremie Frimpong, the latter one of the most discussed names as he was also snubbed by Rambo Koeman for the Senior national team despite the excellent season with Leverkusen. And while in Italy the trials only started after the European Championship, with Nicolato's future hanging from the results, the Netherlands had already announced, well before the tournament, the changeover between van de Looi and the former Milan full-back Reiziger expected at the end of the review.

Privileging the importance of young players in the first team over the Under 21 team is an even more exasperated concept if we look at who made it through the initial round: France, who already have the pass for Paris in their pocket as host country , has left out Tchouameni and Camavinga, Fofana, Badiashile and Sadiba, however presenting itself with a very high quality staff. And then the various Bellinghams, Saka, Gonçalo Ramos, Pedri, Gavi, Haaland, Kvaratskhelia. A concept often expressed by one of the most significant coaches in the recent history of our Primavera championship comes to mind, Alberto De Rossi, who coached Roma for 19 seasons: "The main goal has never been the result or the trophy, but bring players to the first team. There is no trophy that can take us out of this goal”. Italy has tried to do something else entirely. And it didn't work.

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