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.

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