Max Meyer was still in his pram the last time Germany beat England in a major semi-final, but he now knows all about it. - © © imago
Max Meyer was still in his pram the last time Germany beat England in a major semi-final, but he now knows all about it. - © © imago

Bundesliga's best bidding for glory with old foes England on path to UEFA European Under-21 final

The last time Germany and England met in the semi-finals of a major tournament was before most of the players in the nations' current U-21 teams were even born, yet the fierce rivalry lives on ahead of their last-four clash at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Tychy on Tuesday.

At EURO 96, almost 21 years ago to the day, Germany prevailed in a penalty shoot-out over their hosts en route to their last European Championship triumph.

'Loosening up for the semi-final; tomorrow at 18:00CEST'

It is an occasion Germany U-21 coach Stefan Kuntz can remember vividly. "I told my coach 'I'll take our fifth penalty', thinking that the English would never score all five of theirs," recalled the former Kaiserslautern, Bochum and Arminia Bielefeld forward. "I was wrong."

As Kuntz has since narrated to most of his young charges, the shoot-out went to sudden death with not one miss in the regulation five – including Kuntz's final effort. "I had to take the fifth one and you know where my heart was? Very deep in my pants," the 54-year-old told The Guardian.

Former England under-21 coach Gareth Southgate missed England's next, and Andreas Möller took Germany through to a final that they would win against the Czech Republic.

- © gettyimages / Stephen Pond

Gnabry, who joined Bayern Munich from Werder Bremen this summer, is also tipped for a lengthy career in the senior Germany side, having already made his debut for Joachim Löw's men. Indeed, Kuntz has had to sacrifice seven players all eligible to play at under-21 level since they have instead been summoned for senior duty at the FIFA Confederations Cup.

The conveyor belt of talent coming through the Bundesliga appears to be running in overdrive, with Kuntz and Löw spoilt for choice, and with the 2018 FIFA World Cup on the horizon, some difficult choices await. Indeed, Löw could field at least four teams as he looks to guide Germany to a successful defence of their World Cup crown next summer.

First, however, Kuntz wants his players to savour the same kind of success he enjoyed 21 years ago. "It was the greatest victory for me," he recalled, hoping to soon be hearing the same from his Bundesliga prodigies.

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