England U21s – Italy U21s Preview

England-vs-Italy-702x336The Young Lions looked lethargic against Sweden despite securing a 1-0 win that puts them close to qualification, and their manager admits he wants to see more from his team

England Under-21s manager Gareth Southgate admits his side must improve as they strive to secure a place in the semi-finals with a positive result against Italy.

The Young Lions lost their opening game to Portugal and then narrowly overcame Sweden thanks to Jesse Lingard’s late volley.

Despite claiming an important three points, England looked unconvincing and struggled to break down Hakan Ericson’s resolute and well-organised side for long periods.

Southgate praised his team for ultimately getting the job done, but he believes they are capable of much more.

“We had faith that we had the players on the field that could get the goal. We started to create more chances as the game went on and we had to hold our nerve,” he told reporters.

“In the end it was a wonderful piece of skill that wins us the game, but we had dominated possession.

“Sweden are always a threat because of the way they work, but today I thought we deserved the victory, although maybe we weren’t as fluid as we were the other night.

“We take it to the third game now and after the game against Portugal that was the first objective – now it is in our hands. We can be better, but it has given us a good chance of going through.”

Alex Pritchard was forced off 10 minutes into the second half after picking up an ankle injury and will play no further part in the tournament, but John Stones looks to have recovered from the head injury he sustained in training last week.

Italy boss Luigi Di Biagio, meanwhile, believes his side can still progress to the last four despite currently sitting at the bottom of Group B.

The Azzurrini battled back from an opening game defeat to Sweden to draw 0-0 with Portugal, a result that still gives them a chance of finishing in the top two.

Whereas a draw could be enough to see England advance, though, Italy must claim all three points from their final encounter to stand any chance of making the semi-finals.

Di Biagio nevertheless remains upbeat about his team’s chances, and has praised the attitude shown by his players.

“We played a good game but we didn’t score. The team had the right mentality, and they did exactly what we prepared over the last few days. I can’t blame them for anything,” he told reporters.

“Portugal are a team that let us play more than Sweden did, and this aspect was better for us. But we missed chances and that’s our regret, as it was against Sweden when we didn’t kill the game.

“It’s time to focus on England now. We have to stay hopeful because we still have a chance of going through. I’m always confident, even when something is impossible to pull off. I’ll be confident ahead of our last game.”

Stefano Sturaro is Italy’s only absentee, the Juventus midfielder serving the second game of a three-match ban following his sending off against Sweden.

NaijaBet Odds

As at this post England has 2.45 odd to win the match on NaijaBet while Italy has 3.09 odd to win the match also, while the odd to draw the match is 3.19.

England U21 v Portugal U21 – Preview: Hopes v Expectations

and begin their European Under-21 Championship campaign on Thursday evening as they face off in a Group B encounter at the Stadion Miroslava Valenty in Uherske Hradiste.

Both sides qualified for the tournament in fine fashion going unbeaten in qualifying before letting their guard slip a little in post-qualifying friendlies.

The Esperancas topped Group 8 and scored 22 goals as they won all eight of their qualifiers, conceding just six times – and half of those in a pulsating 4-3 win in Israel.

In the six team Group 1, the Young Lions drew an early away game 1-1 in Finland, before pushing on to win nine of their ten qualifiers. The Three Lions scored at a rate of more than three goals a game and conceded just one more goal in their group.

However, since securing their place in the Czech Republic, both sides have lost one of their friendlies; indeed earlier this year, England triumphed against their Iberian opponents at Turf Moor, with Danny Ings scoring twice. A few days after that match, Gareth Southgate’s side were defeated, losing a close encounter in France.

In eight previous U21 Euros meetings between the two sides, Portugal have a slight edge, having won four to England’s three – those three have been the most recent meetings, though Portugal did emerge triumphant in the Toulon Tournament last summer.

England will go into the game expecting for fireworks from their potent strike force, which contains West Bromwich Albion’s , scorer of 10 goals in qualifying. However, he faces a battle to be selected in a likely 4-2-3-1 formation with of Tottenham.

Kane’s rise has been meteoric, and he netted six times in his eight qualifying appearances. Berahino’s current tally of 10 goals leaves just him three behind the national record held jointly by Alan Shearer and Francis Jeffers (13) going into the tournament.

Meanwhile, Portugal’s qualifying goals were spread around the team, with Porto’s Ricardo Pereira top scoring for Rui Jorge’s side with five. Ivan Cavaleiro of Benfica offers a different threat; a magician when the mood takes him, and Ben Gibson will have to pay the wideman close attention.

Form Guide: England (W-W-W-W-W-W), Portugal (W-W-W-W-W-W)

Expected Starting XIs

England: Butland; Jenkinson, Moore, Gibson, Garbutt; Ward-Prowse, Carroll; Redmond, Hughes, Pritchard; Kane

Portugal: Jose Sa; Esgaio, Oliveira, Guerriro, Ilori; Neves, Carvalho, Bernardo Silva; Cavaleiro, Ricardo Pereira, Mane

NaijaBet Odds

As at this post England has 2.64 odd to win the match on NaijaBet while Portugal  has 2.80 odd to win the match also, while the odd to draw the match is 3.23.