England Training and Press Conference - UEFA European U21 Championships

UEFA U-21 European Championship Preview

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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

Group A

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)

Group B

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)

Semi-finals

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

Marek Hamsik absolutely smashes goal in Slovakia’s upset of Germany (video)

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - MARCH 25:  Marek Hamsik of Slovakia runs with the ball during the international friendly match between Slovakia and Latvia held at Stadion Antona Malatinskeho on March 25, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
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Marek Hamsik hit a ball with such momentous force that we’re not sure it rotated more than three full turns on its 20-yard flight into the goal.

The Slovakia star’s goal equalized a friendly with Germany at 1, and Repre went on to hammer the reigning World Cup champs by a 3-1 score.

[ USMNT-BOLIVIA: Recap3 things | Player ratings ]

I mean, really, what a hitBernd Leno had little hope of touching it.

Carrick praises Mourinho, reportedly will sign Manchester United extension

MONACO - MAY 27:  Michael Carrick attends the Red Bull Racing Energy Station at Monte Carlo on May 27, 2016 in Monaco, Monaco.  (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
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Longtime Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick spoke glowingly of new boss Jose Mourinho amidst rumors he’ll sign a one-year extension with the Old Trafford set.

Carrick, 34, joined United from Tottenham in 2006, and has won major trophy after major trophy with the club. He wants more, and he doesn’t care how.

[ MORE: United hires Mourinho | Things he must do ]

The 34-times capped English midfielder has 421 appearances for United, and could fit neatly into a Mourinho system.

From The Mirror:

“You have to be number one and winning trophies and if you can do that with a bit of style and a bit of flair then that is the perfect match but first and foremost it is about winning and getting back on top.

“There is going to be change without a doubt because he is coming in and he is his own man.

“He has got an unbelievable track record and everyone is looking for quick results and that’s how it is.”

We have to wonder how the United fans who booed Louis Van Gaal after every turn will react to these comments, although wins cure everything, right?

Kante, James among players happy to stay put with champions

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 04: A dejected Simon Mignolet of LiverpSimon Mignolet of Liverpool (L) looks on as Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mates during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 4, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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There were many rumors than N'Golo Kante had a deal that would allow him to leave Leicester City, but the midfielder doesn’t sound like the leaving type.

According to L’Equipe, Kante isn’t looking to leave the Premier League champions, and is content to play in the UEFA Champions League with the Foxes next season.

[ UCL: Real Madrid wins | CR7 reacts | Bale, too ]

He’s been tipped to move to Real Madrid and Manchester City amongst other potential stops.

“For now, I am happy at Leicester,” he said. “I do not pay too much attention to everything that is said.”

That vibe is running through the headlines today, as UEFA Champions League winners Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez say they want to stay at Real Madrid, and Isco is also happy to come back to the Bernabeu to make a run at a first La Liga title since the 2011-12 season.

Hull City promoted, but Steve Bruce still considering future

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Steve Bruce, manager of Hull City lifts the trophy after victory in the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Steve Bruce saw Hull City go down to the Championship, and pulled the Tigers right back up the Premier League.

Hull won promotion at the first time of asking after defeating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Saturday, but Bruce wants to see stability at the KC Stadium.

[ USMNT-BOLIVIA: Recap3 things | Player ratings ]

The club remains up for sale after owner Assem Allam saw his request to change the team name to Hull Tigers denied by the English Football Association.

From the BBC:

“I’ll sit down with the owners. It’s not often you walk away from the Premier League – that’s where I want to manage,” Bruce told BBC Radio 5 live.

“But I have to be given certain assurances that we’re all moving in the right direction.

“I keep hearing too many stories that there’s a takeover imminent. We’ll see what develops,” added the 55-year-old.

The longtime Manchester United back has been around the managerial block a few times, and it’d be nice to see him stay at Hull for the long term. He’s led the Tigers into the Premier League on two occasions, and is — seriously — the seventh longest tenured manager in the Football League. He would enter the Premier League as the second-longest serving manager, to Arsene Wenger.