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England Under-21s set for crunch match against Italy

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England's notorious record in international tournaments has been in the back of English minds for decades. If it's not penalties, it's a red card or dodgy officiating that has sent England packing.

However, there were no excuses from the England camp when they went crashing out of the 2014 World Cup in the group stages in Brazil.

However, the pessimism surrounding the national side may not stick around for long thanks to the talent coming through the youth ranks. England's U21s under the management of Gareth Southgate have only suffered one defeat in 19 games prior to the u21 Euros. Established Premier League stars feature for the U21s such as Saido Berahino, Danny Ings and Tottenham leading goalscorer, Harry Kane.

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England vs Portugal

Unfortunately, just prior to the tournament, news filtered through that Berahino picked up an injury which would see him out playing any part in the campaign.

However, England's first game in the U21 European Championships came up against Portugal, With the likes of experienced players like William Carvalho, the subject of transfer speculation in the past few years and linked with some of Europe's biggest clubs, Portugal were seen as one of the pre-tournament favourites. 

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Unfortunately for England, they produced a fairly lacklustre performance against the Portuguese and suffered a 1-0 defeat, a scrappy goal dividing the two sides. Perhaps more worrying for Southgate was the lack of invention and strength in midfield that couldn't compete with Portugal's experience and power.

Sweden vs England

Sweden were England's next opponents in the group stage. The Swedes were taking confidence into the game as they beat Italy 2-1 in their opener, despite playing much of the game with ten men. England looked to control the majority of the play without really troubling the Swedish goalkeeper and struggled to breach the back line.

As the 90 minutes was looming in what was seen as a must-win game for the Three Lions. In the 84th minute the ball fell to Jesse Lingard on the edge of the Swedish box, the Manchester United man set himself and volleyed the ball past the outstretching Patrik Carlgren.

Chelsea midfielder, Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on as a substitute and offered another attacking dimension and England looked more dangerous. 

England survived a last minute scare to come away with a 1-0 win and a vital three points to take into the final group game.

England vs Italy

Going into the final group game against Italy on Wednesday, England will perhaps look to Lingard to start in midfield as Alex Pritchard's injury, picked up in the Sweden game, looks to keep him out of the whole tournament.

Italy have struggled during the tournament, losing their opener to Sweden and picking up a point in a goalless draw with Portugal. Italy, who have a proud record at U21 level, will need to pick up three points against England if they are to go through and will provide a stern test of character and resilience for the English.

To boost England's chances, John Stones could return to the side after a compulsory two match layoff due to a concussion he suffered after a training ground collision with keeper, Jack Butland. 

Group as it stands

As it stands, all four nations have the opportunity to proceed into the knockout stages and so the upcoming fixtures between England and Italy along with Portugal against Sweden promises to be an exciting 180 minute of football.

                    P   W   D    L    F   A    Pts

Portugal     2    1    1    0    1    0     4

England     2    1    0    1    1    1     3

Sweden     2    1    0    1    2    2     3

Italy            2    0    1    1    1    2     1

Although the u21s do not receive the media hype and national pressures that the first team gets at international tournaments, England will hope to gain silverware from this tournament in an attempt to give these young players an experience of winning trophies that they can take into their full international careers.

Players to watch for the future England team

Harry Kane has made headlines all season thanks to his magnificent goal-scoring form and if his run is to continue, then England have a genuine goal-scorer that may lead the line for many years to come.

Although, yet to make an appearance in the Euros, Everton centre-half John Stones has received a lot of praise for his performances for The Toffees. Veteran defenders such as John Terry have recently expressed their appreciation for the 21-year-old as he continues to impress.

A perhaps lesser known talent comes if the form of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The Chelsea midfielder made a handful of appearances at the end of the season for his club and made to substitute appearances in the Euros. The young Englishman has looked strong and composed on the ball and appears unfazed by the Premier League and the international stage.

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