In this series, we’ll look at the best XI from each group in qualifying for the U21 Euros being hosted in Romania and Georgia next summer. We’ll also take a look into some of the players from smaller nations who made the final shortlist but didn’t make the final cut.
GK: Kristoffer KLAESSON (’00) – Norway – Leeds United (ENG1)
9 appearances, 3 clean sheets
Signed by Leeds from Vålerenga last summer as a back up to fellow U21 international Illan Meslier, Klaesson has had to settle for regular football with Leeds’ U23 squad this season. Klaesson made his single Premier League appearance off the bench against Wolves in a thrilling 3-2 comeback, and kept a clean sheet in his 46 minutes on the pitch, and his international performances have helped Norway to qualify for their first U21 Euros since 2013.
RB: Sebastian Sebulonsen (’00) – Norway – Viking FK (NOR1)
10 appearances, 3 clean sheets, 1 goal, 6 assists
The definition of an attacking full back, Sebulonsen happily spends more of his time in the opposition’s half than defending in his own, and his 6 assists in 10 international matches is impressive.
In the Eliteserien, Sebulonsen has proved what a valuable asset he is going forward. In the last 12 months, no full back has accumulated a higher expected goals (xG), and no full back under the age of 23 has a higher expected assists (xA) (stats via Wyscout). Viking are competing for a place in Europe this season, and Sebulonsen’s form has been an important asset.
LB: Jonas AUER (’00) – Austria – Rapid Vienna (AUT1)
8 appearances, 4 clean sheets, 5 assists
Austria’s shaky form in defence caused them to fall all the way to fourth in Group A, even though they were one of the favourites on paper, and Auer’s absence in the starting XI for the final three games didn’t help matters. Returning from a spell in the Czech Republic, most recently with Mlada Boleslav, Auer appeared in all three European club competitions this season for Rapid Vienna. Compare to other U23 full backs in the Austrian Bundesliga:
CB: Jesper DALAND (’00) – Norway – Cercle Brugge (BEL1)