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 By Nick Miller

Will England shake their inferiority complex? Can Asensio be stopped?

With the semifinals of the European Under-21 Championship set to kick off on Tuesday, Nick Miller highlights the stories to keep an eye on as England, Germany, Spain and Italy look to book a place in Friday's final in Krakow.

Can England shake their inferiority complex?

Of course it doesn't mean anything in reality, but it does raise a smile that England's European Under-21 Championship semifinal against Germany will take place a year to the day after the senior side were humiliated by Iceland. That game was the low point of England's inferiority complex, a 90-minute demonstration of why the national team fails at major tournaments.

The question now is whether any lessons that the senior team might have been given from that failure have been learned by the juniors. There's another spectre of England tournaments past looming too, in the shape of Germany manager Stefan Kuntz, who this week wasn't shy of reminding everyone that he was in the side that beat the English back in 1996.

Will all of this have any bearing at all on this game? Perhaps not, but England's mental block when it comes to games like this might be the biggest reason to doubt they'll win.

England are in an unusual position in this game because logically, they are probably slight favourites. They are facing a Germany side that is shorn of their better players, the likes of Timo Werner and Leon Goretzka away with Joachim Low's shadow side at the Confederations Cup. Some of England's eligible players aren't present either, but they have a solid defence, creativity out wide and up front a player in Tammy Abraham whose performances thus far have suggested goals are close, even if he hasn't scored yet.

Lewis Baker and Tammy Abraham
Lewis Baker, left, and Tammy Abraham have England poised to break their big-tournament hoodoo.

There's plenty of reasons for optimism, from Aidy Boothroyd's side. They just have to make sure they know that too.

Will Selke discover some consistency?

Davie Selke first appeared on the radar as "one to watch" a good three years ago, trailed by some as the natural heir to Miroslav Klose. The centre-forward was then at Werder Bremen, a product of their youth team but since a move to RB Leipzig, his career has stalled a little: he only scored four goals last season, in the shadow of Werner, and indeed he might not even be in this team had his clubmate not been required for the senior team in Russia.

A move to Hertha Berlin might reignite his club career, but for now the German Under-21s side need him to start scoring with a little more consistency: he has one in the tournament so far, and quite a goal it was, but he can often go missing in games, his finishing erratic and all-round play often leaving a bit to be desired. Against England, with Alfie Mawson and Calum Chambers providing an impressive shield for the terrific Jordan Pickford, Germany need Selke to be at his sharpest.

Can Italy stop Asensio?

It wouldn't have been a huge surprise if Marco Asensio hadn't travelled to Poland. The Real Madrid forward might have considered a "youth" tournament as slightly beneath him, having just scored in the Champions League final and potentially made his club feel quite relaxed about the prospect of selling Gareth Bale. But here he is, and very quickly established his status as the best player present with a dazzling hat trick in Spain's opening game, against Macedonia, peppering the top corner of the net with laser-accuracy and looking like the class above that he clearly is.

With a hat trick in Spain's opener, Marco Asensio has been among the tournament's best.

"We're blessed to have a lad with his quality, as a footballer and a person," gushed Spain coach Albert Celades, after that game. Qualification in the bag, he was rested for Spain's final group game, meaning he'll be nice and fresh to terrorise the Italy defence in the semifinal. Their task is now to figure out a (legal, ideally) way of stopping him on Tuesday. Best of luck.

Can Donnarumma keep his mind on Italy?

Most 18-year-olds might find it rather tricky to focus simply on playing football at a high level, without the added distraction of having Mino Raiola as your agent and all the complications that come with that. Gianluigi Donnarumma is of course not like most 18-year-olds, having been anointed as Gianluigi Buffon's successor before he was legally old enough to ride a moped (even in Italy), but even he might have struggled to maintain 100 percent concentration on the European Championship this month.

The uncertainty over his future at club level led some frankly quite curious characters to pelt him with fake money during Italy's opener against Denmark, then on Sunday evening the old problems of social media arose, as Donnarumma initially appeared to post an encouraging message regarding his prospects of staying at AC Milan on his Instagram account, only for him then to declare he'd been hacked. Whether he actually was or not, with all of this fogging his young brain, you wouldn't blame him for having his mind on other things as Spain approach in the semifinals.

Italy need his head in Poland, not back in Milan.

Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.

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