The expectations are always high on the England national team, whether it be the senior side or the youth teams. For the Under-21 European Championship in the Czech Republic, The Young Lions will have a squad with some exceptional talent, but will it be able to take them all the way? England’s U-21 team hasn’t won the tournament in over 30 years.
The Czech Republic is hosting its second large sporting event this year, as they will be the site for the Under-21 European Championship that starts on June 17. The Czech Republic hosted the IIHF Hockey World Championship in May. Although it’s a under-21 tournament, as long as the players are born in or after 1992 they are eligible, making the maximum age 23. That’s because the qualifications for the tournament started in 2013.
England’s journey to the 2015 U-21 Euros started in qualification Group 1 where they went undefeated in 10 matches, winning nine and drawing one. They outscored their opponents 31-2 for a +29 goal difference and won the group on 28 points, 12 points ahead of second-placed Finland. With such a dominating performance in the qualification group, the pressure is on the Young Lions to continue their success in the tournament. In the qualification playoffs they beat Croatia 4-2 on aggregate after two 2-1 wins.
England has won 14 out of the last 15 games after a 1-0 win over Belarus on Thursday in a friendly, thanks to a late goal by defender Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough).
Group B is on paper an extremely tough group with England, Portugal, Sweden, and Italy. There’s no easy games in this group, and the English are hoping to get off to a good start in the first game against Portugal.
The squad is made up solely by players playing in England, although that’s not a bad thing considering the English Premier League is one of the best in the world. A few high-profile names are missing on the roster like Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), and Manchester United duo Phil Jones and Luke Shaw.
The first three players on this list are now considered senior national team players and Shaw was hold out of the squad after national team coach Gareth Southgate had a talk with United manager Louis van Gaal. Shaw has been battling injuries all season long so it van Gaal wanted Shaw to be able to rest up for the upcoming season as he is the first choice at left back for United when he’s healthy.
There’s still a lot of interesting names in the squad, and despite missing Wilshere, Southgate has two very good and creative central midfielders in James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) and Will Hughes (Derby). Ward-Prowse made 26 Premier League appearances for Southampton this season as they finished 7th and qualified for the Europa League despite a massive overhaul of players.
On the back end the English have three players that have already featured with the senior national team in Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal), Calum Chambers (Arsenal), and John Stones (Everton). In net it looks like Jack Butland (Stoke) will be the first choice.
Up front, Southgate has a trio of strikers that combined for 46 Premier League goals this season in Harry Kane (Tottenham), Saido Berahino (West Bromwich), and Danny Ings (Burnley). Kane was second in scoring in the league with 21 goals, Berahino sixth with 14, and Ings had 11. Ings had a really good season despite Burnley being relegated and is set to stay in the Premier League with Liverpool. With all three of them being accomplished goalscorers, Southgate can’t really go wrong no matter who he puts on the field.
June 18: England – Portugal
June 21: Sweden – England
June 24: England – Italy
Goalkeepers: Marcus Bettinelli (Fulham), Jonathan Bond (Watford), Jack Butland (Stoke City)
Defenders: Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Luke Garbutt (Everton), Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, on loan at West Ham United), Michael Keane (Burnley), Liam Moore (Leicester City), John Stones (Everton), Matt Targett (Southampton)
Midfielders: Tom Carroll (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea), Will Hughes (Derby County), Jake Forster-Caskey (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Alex Pritchard (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathan Redmond (Norwich City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Forwards: Saido Berahino (West Bromwich Albion), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Danny Ings (Burnley),