Preview of UEFA’s U19 European Championships

UEFA's 2014 U-19 European Championship will kick off this weekend when Ukraine meet Serbia in the group stage's first match on the 19th July. The competition's qualifying round and the Elite round have both laid witness to the early exits of typical European mainstays and powerhouses, with 9-time record champions England and Spain both seeing elimination last round. The group stage will pit 2 sets of 4 teams against each other, with the world's brightest young stars from Austria, Hungary, Israel, and Portugal pitted in Group A, and Bulgaria's, Germany's, Serbia's, and Ukraine's starlets set to battle for Group B. Eurosport broadcasts several games of this championship live on free TV!

The top 2 teams from each group after 3 matches will advance to the semi-finals where they will battle for glory, and while this tournament pales in comparison to international senior team cups, such as this summer’s World Cup spectacle in Brazil, it is glory in the history books nonetheless. And for a few players, if not most, this may well be their sole opportunity to pull on the colors of their country in an international competition and fight for the pride and respect of their native homes. These circumstances make for riveting affairs, and from Israel to Germany, Bulgaria to Portugal, any team at the Hungarian games can claim the cup.

UEFA’s youth tournament offers a chance for the world’s brightest young talents to announce their presence to the footballing world, aiming to strap on the label of the “next big thing” and earn a prime opportunity with a big name club. Starlets have been participating in this cup for years, from France’s strike duo of David Trezeguet and the immortal Thierry Henry to current stars Wayne Rooney, David Silva, and Phillip Lahm all representing their respective countries well before they became household names. This year’s crop includes the likes of Krisztián Tamás, a Hungarian defender who plies his trade with the Italian giants, AC Milan. His work rate and ability to read plays is undeniable, but he’ll need to be careful not to stray too far up the left-flank and leave his defence exposed to the flying Portuguese or the high-scoring Austrians. The latter possess a dangerous phenom in the form of Synan Bytyqi, who sits in the youth ranks of English champions, Manchester City and can play on the flanks or in behind the striker, which brings us to the Elite round’s co-leading goal-scorer Florian Grillitsch, who smashed in an amazing 4 goals in just under 55 minutes against Romania en route to an Austrian blowout. But the name on everyone’s lips, especially after watching his mother country Germany claim the world crown, is attacking midfielder Max Meyer, who leads another influx of German talent intent upon returning to the title game after last claiming the cup in 2008. The Schalke playmaker is being chased by some of the largest clubs all across Europe. – UPDATE: Max Meyer will not participate in Hungary. He did not get the permission of his Club Schalke 04!

The odds-on favorites here are the traditional powerhouses Germany at 3.00 odds and Portugal at 4.00 odds – both at Bwin. The Germans will be spurred on by their country’s World Cup victory just under a week ago, so a bet on the favorites could yield solid dividends. Serbia (8.50 – at Bwin), Austria (10.00 – at Unibet), Hungary (10.00 – at bet-at-home),  Ukraine (11.00 – at Unibet), Bulgaria (12.00 – at Bwin), and Israel (17.00 – at Unibet) round out the rest, with the Austrians and host nation Hungary posing very realistic upset potential. As the host nation, Hungary were not required to qualify, but 5 wins from their 6 matches in 2014 has many critics hesitating to doubt their chances. Since the tournament’s 1948 inauguration, the host country has worn the crown 11 times.

If you are situated in Europe or have access to Eurosport you are lucky. The european sports channel broadcasts several games live and show the tapes of the other ones in full time after the live-game has ended. It is yet not clear but possibly you will also be able to find a livestream on Eurosport’s Website.