England’s Under-21 squad has been confirmed for the UEFA U21 Euros Finals Group stage.
Aidy Boothroyd has named his roster of 23 players ahead of England’s group games against Croatia, Portugal and Switzerland in the knockout phase.
The young Three Lions squad take on Switzerland in their opening fixture next week on March 25 and they will be aiming to book their place in the eight-team knockout stage, which will be hosted by Hungary and Slovenia this summer between May 31 and June 6.
Two of the four teams in the group will progress to the finals and England certainly have the raw talent and firepower to qualify.
Boothroyd has named a squad that is stacked with high-calibre talent, including the flourishing Arsenal playmaker Emile Smith-Rowe and Curtis Jones, a player who is building a case to be considered Liverpool’s in-house replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum.
The depth of options available to Gareth Southgate ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament has been well documented, and the announcement of the Under-21 squad is only bound to fuel a narrative that’s already beginning to mirror those that have ran parallel to previous England failures.
To put it simply: Boothroyd’s squad is laden with first-class youngsters.
Plenty of those precocious players who’ve earned selection for the squad will harbour realistic ambitions of moving up to the senior squad. For some, the Euros may even be a realistic target.
But just how good is this collection of 23 rising England stars?
In order to answer that question, GIVEMESPORT have used the ever-reliable Tiermaker tool to rank the players’ potential.
From ‘Potential England Icon’ to ‘Unlikely to be capped’, we analyse which players are the most and least likely to become a future star of the England national team.
Take a look below:
Potential England icon
Mason Greenwood and Emile Smith-Rowe are the only two players to make the cut here.
The manner in which Smith-Rowe glides across the turf and occupies pockets of space between the lines is remarkably unique, while Greenwood is one of the purest strikers of the ball you’re likely to see in world football.
It’s early days for both players, but we’re expecting big things for both club and country in the coming years.
Future first-team regular
These players might not become star players at international level but they all stand a fantastic chance of becoming regulars further down the line.
Marc Guehi has been in brilliant form for Swansea in the Championship since signing on loan from Chelsea, and his fellow centre-back Ben Godfrey is both technical and versatile enough to enjoy a long and fruitful career in international football.
Curtis Jones and Callum Hudson-Odoi are two of England’s brightest young talents and could transcend this bracket if lady luck is on their side with injuries.
Noni Madueke, one of the more unfamiliar players in the squad, has been a revelation at PSV Eindhoven this season, scoring nine goals and providing eight assists in 26 games across all competitions.
Hoffenheim loanee Ryan Sessegnon is another Brit abroad who is making a stark impression on the continent.
Future squad player
Oliver Skipp and Japhet Tanganga have continued Spurs’ tradition of producing excellent
English youngsters. With England relatively light in the holding midfield and central defensive positions, both players have an opportunity to break into the team once they’ve proven themselves at club level. Glowing reviews from Skipp’s loan spell with Norwich City suggest he’s earned a proper first-team opportunity in north London next season.
West Brom’s Conor Gallagher, who is on loan from Chelsea, is a fine player with plenty in his locker and could yet flourish into a Premier League star.
As a natural left-footer, Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly offers something different to Southgate at centre-back and his ability to slot in seamlessly at left-back makes him an attractive squad option.
The extent of Eddie Nketiah’s potential is difficult to call but the demand for old-school poachers is rapidly diminishing in the modern game. He could be a valuable impact substitute, but it’s tricky to envisage him leading the line from the outset.
Finally, Aaron Ramsdale has endured a difficult season with Sheffield United but, given England’s struggle to identify a clear number one stopper, he’s likely to get an opportunity at some stage.
Take this one with a pinch of salt. We certainly intend no disrespect towards Tom Davies, who has been transformed by Carlo Ancelotti since the Italian’s arrival.
The 22-year-old has a brilliant engine, is becoming increasingly composed in possession and has a broad repertoire befitting of an old-school box-to-box midfielder.
However, if there’s anyone in this squad that looks destined to follow Mark Noble down a similar path by controversially never earning a single England cap, then it’s certainly Davies.
All the ingredients are there: He plays for his boyhood club, is loved by his supporters, plays in central midfield but doesn’t specialise defensively or offensively and, most importantly, has featured heavily for the U21s without ever featuring for the senior side.
There’s still loads of time for Davies to warrant an England cap, and we’re backing him to eventually get one, but people said that about Noble once upon a time…
Born in the wrong era
We’re not writing these four players off as potential England players but rather empathising with the circumstances beyond their control.
Eberechi Eze and Max Aarons would be nailed-on for the senior side in a parallel universe.
However, this particular England era is defined by the strength of its right-backs and playmakers.
With so many options ahead of them in the pecking order, they face a colossal challenge to break into the squad.
Dwight McNeil, meanwhile, is in the mould of a traditional winger who is at his most deadly when crossing from wide positions. The seemingly ubiquitous transition towards a possession-based approach makes him something of a dying breed, though it must be said that he has shown promise in central positions as well.
It’s just too bad that, like Eze, he’s got Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and James Maddison ahead of him.
Steven Sessegnon is also part of the right-back club and is unlikely to build an international career there. That he is ambidextrous and comfortable at left-back could yet represent a viable route into the side.
Unlikely to be capped
Let’s be clear on one thing: it’s too early to write anyone in this squad off.
The likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and even Grealish have shown that talent takes time and young players can often spring huge surprises which defy popular opinion.
However, we haven’t seen enough from these four to argue their case for future caps.
The fact Liverpool were willing to cash in on Rhian Brewster suggests that they’re not expecting him to blossom into an elite talent, while Ben Wilmot isn’t a guaranteed starter for Championship promotion hopefuls Watford.
Goalkeeping duo Josef Bursik and Josh Griffiths are plying their trades in the second and fourth tiers respectively, and both have Ramsdale, Dean Henderson, Nick Pope and Jordan Pickford to contend with.