Hearty Young Lions just one step away from creating history

2 min read

England under-21s are now just one win away from writing their names in the history books following a narrow and hard-fought 1-0 victory over Portugal at the U21 European Championship. 

Lee Carsley’s side sealed their spot in the semi-finals of the competition thanks to a goal from Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon and will face Israel U21 on Wednesday, with a win taking them to the final of a tournament England’s youngsters last won all the way back in 1984. 

It has been a barnstorming campaign for the Three Lions, who are yet to concede a single goal in Romania and Georgia. They have been defensively faultless, winning 2-0 in each of their three group games alongside a 1-0 triumph against Portugal in Sunday’s quarter-final showdown against the 2021 finalists. 

One of their three 2-0 wins in the group stage came against Israel, so Carsley and his side will take a great deal of confidence into Wednesday evening’s tie. In that game, England dominated possession (69%) and completed more than double the amount of passes compared to Israel (709 to 324) – had it not been for some wasteful finishing, the final score could have easily been greater. 

Israel’s Euro campaign has not gone quite as smoothly as England’s, with only one 1-0 victory partnering a 2-0 defeat and 1-1 draw in the group stage before their goalless draw against Georgia had to be settled by penalties in the quarter-finals. Momentum will certainly be with the Three Lions and they are overwhelming favourites to book a spot in the final against either Spain or Ukraine on Saturday. 

However, the job is far from complete and as we have so often seen with the senior national team, less than nothing can be viewed as a foregone conclusion despite the plethora of class pulsating through this young England side which contains the likes of Harvey Elliott, Anthony Gordon and Morgan Gibbs-White among others. 

Irrespective of the result on Wednesday, England have done remarkably well to reach this point in such style. The U21s’ record at recent European Championships has been underwhelming to say the least, bowing out in the group stages in 2021 and 2019 after reaching the semi-finals of the tournament in 2017. 

Prior to that, England’s young Lions thrice fell victim to an early exit on consecutive occasions – failing to make it out of their group in 2015, 2013 and 2011, which is both confusing and thoroughly disappointing considering how much quality has been ever-present in the squads chosen by then-managers Aidy Boothroyd, Gareth Southgate and Stuart Pearce; James Maddison, Phil Foden and Mason Mount to name but a few.

All that will count for nothing, though, should Carsley and his spirited group of future stars do the business this time around. Making the final will be a hugely welcomed achievement for the CV and undoubtedly provide the Lionesses with a sizable boost ahead of the Women’s World Cup later this month.

Winning it, however, will see them each create their own special slice of history.

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