HomeFootball NewsHow England’s talented Under-21 side conquered Europe

How England’s talented Under-21 side conquered Europe

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For the first time in 39 years England won the Under-21s European Championship this summer, adding to the two previous titles the country took in 1982 and 1984.

It was an impressive tournament for the young Englishmen, as the team did not concede a single goal on the way to the trophy.

At the helm is manager Lee Carsley, who was previously the assistant manager of the Under-21s when Aidy Boothroyd was in charge.

Carsley, going into this tournament, was able to bring together a strong team of staff to push this young squad all the way.

The introduction of Ashley Cole and Joleon Lescott was clearly huge, the former England defenders helping the players to produce a superb defensive record in the Euros. This allowed England to rely on their strong foundation at the back, freeing the incredible talent up front to be as expressive as possible.

In qualifying for the competition, England topped the group with eight wins, one draw, and one loss against Slovenia. Despite taking 25 points from a possible 30, the team headed to Georgia for the Euros off the back of successive losses in friendlies against Croatia and Japan.

But any pre-tournament nerves were swept away after a group stage where England won all their games by the same 2-0 scoreline against the Czech Republic, Israel and Germany.

Moving to the knockout stages, England faced a very strong Portugal side, which featured Pedro Neto and Fabio Silva of Wolves, and Nuno Tavares of Arsenal. Even though the Portuguese side had more shots and possession, a 34th-minute Anthony Gordon goal was enough to seal the victory and set up a semi-final against Israel.

After beating Israel in group C, the same was achieved in the last four, this time with a dominant 3-0 victory.

In the final they faced Spain, the same nation the 1984 England team beat to win the last Under-21 Euros title.

Throughout the entire tournament, England set up playing a four-four-two system. The six players in the midfield and up front were very attack-minded, which only highlighted how brilliant the goalkeeper and four defenders were as a unit.

The two central midfielders who played most of the games were Curtis Jones of Liverpool and Angel Gomes of Lille, both of whom are seen as forward thinking defenders. But the system worked efficiently for England.

In the final Spain had 65% possession and were chasing the game for all the second half after a Cole Palmer free kick, which took a wild deflection off Jones, had put the Three Lions ahead in the last minute of the first half.

There was drama when Spain were awarded a penalty in the last minutes of normal time to give them a chance to make it all square and send the game into extra time. But Burnley-linked Manchester City goalkeeper James Trafford took his chance to become the hero and saved the Abel Ruiz penalty in the 99th minute of normal time. The title was England’s to savour.

It wasn’t just a team success; Newcastle winger Gordon took home player of the tournament after scoring two goals in his six appearances. In the team of the tournament, England made up over half of the team with six players being selected: Trafford, Levi Colwill, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, James Garner, Jones and Gordon.

Overall, for the England under-21 team, it was a tournament that could not have gone any better, with zero goals conceded, 11 goals scored, and the trophy brought home at the end of it.

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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