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England National Team

U21 European Championships: England Preview and Players to Watch

The Boot Room

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Despite failing to progress from the group stages of the last two tournaments, there is much cause for optimism as the England U21’s head to the Czech Republic for the European Championships. The failings of the past two tournaments saw an increasingly beleaguered Stuart Pearce replaced by Gareth Southgate in 2013 after 7 years at the helm. In the 15 games since his appointment the U21’s have won 13 and lost only once. However, most pleasing for Southgate, aside from the superb pre-tournament form, is the opportunity to work with the same group consistently; a luxury at u21 level.

The Squad

GK – Butland, Bond, Bettinelli. DF – Keane, Moore, Garbutt, Jenkinson, Gibson, Stones, Chambers, Targett. MF – Redmond, Chalobah, Ward-Prowse, Carroll, Hughes, Forster-Caskey, Lingard, Pritchard, Loftus-Cheek. ST – Berahino, Kane, Ings

The positive form of Southgate’s England directly correlates with his consistency of selection. Butland, Garbutt, Stones, Redmond, Chalobah, Hughes, Ward-Prowse, Berahino and Kane have all been regulars under Southgate, accruing more than 130 caps between them, and will likely start against Portugal on the 18th June. The consistency of selection has been the foundation upon which Southgate has built this u21 side. Butland is England’s most experienced player at this tournament with 28 caps. In front of him will be a defence lead by John Stones on the back of an excellent season with Everton. A midfield trio of Chalobah, Hughes and Ward-Prowse possess experience, quality on the ball and a dynamism few sides will match at this tournament. Up front, however, is where England are capable of causing significant damage. Berahino and Kane have a combined total of 18 goals in 25 games at this level, while Danny Ings will provide able back-up. Crucially, all three are goal-scorers and each have had superb seasons at club level. Enough has been written about Harry Kane – 30+ goals in his breakthrough season speaks for itself. Although Berahino has not received the column inches Kane has, an impressive 20 strikes in a West Brom side heavily dependent on his goals speaks volumes for his ability to deal with the pressure placed on his young shoulders, while 10 goals in 10 qualifiers is second to none in Europe. Danny Ings 11 goals in a struggling Burnley side secured a move to Liverpool and a place on the plane to Prague. Although he is unlikely to start ahead of Kane and Berahino, his pace and work ethic off the bench will be valuable against tiring defences in dry, continental heat.

Form

13 wins in 15 games since Southgate took over speaks for itself. As does 28 points from 30 available in qualification. Only Denmark scored more than England’s 31 in qualification while no country conceded fewer than England’s 2. Put simply, England are white hot going into the Euro’s. The bookies agree, with only Germany at shorter odds than the Three Lions. England will have few better opportunities to win their first European Championships since 1984 as heavyweights Holland, France and back-to-back reigning champions Spain all failed to qualify.

Fixtures

18/06 – Portugal
21/06 – Sweden
24/06 – Italy
27/06 – Semi-Final
30/06 – Final

Three to Watch: England

Berahino and Kane’s importance to England is obvious. 35 Premier League goals between them. 18 U21 goals between them. Half the Premier League have been linked with one or other of them. They’re the main men. But from whom else does England expect?

Nathan Redmond – The Norwich City man has been cited as a potential star of the future ever since his Birmingham City days. With 23 caps to his name, Redmond scored Norwich’s second at Wembley 4 weeks ago to cap off a magnificent second half to the season as Alex Neil’s men gained promotion. Redmond’s pace and trickery will be vital to England’s chances.

John Stones – Much is expected of the Everton man. Excellent on the ball for a centre half, reads the game with a maturity that belies his 21 years and has the potential to improve further. The Manchester clubs have both been linked with summer moves. Will need to be England’s defensive organiser if they are to progress beyond the group.

James Ward-Prowse – You don’t play 74 Premier League games before your 21st birthday unless you are a bit special but JWP has done exactly that. He was superb in a pre-tournament friendly victory over Germany in March but will need to keep up with demands of tournament football. Continental sides have an emphasis on possession so Ward-Prowse will be required to combat this with intense pressure on the ball, while he will be England’s heartbeat in possession. If England are to progress to the final then Ward-Prowse needs to announce himself on the European stage ala Mesut Ozil in 2009.

Three to Watch: The Rest

Domenico Berardi – Italy’s main threat to England on 24th June. Like Ward-Prowse, he is not yet twenty-one but has 31 Serie A goals in 61 games for mid-table Sassuolo. The left-footed winger/striker oozes class and technical ability, scores a goal every two games and was the youngest player to score 4 in a Serie A match (as Sassuolo beat Milan 4-3 in Jan 2014). Co-owned by Juventus, Berardi will doubtless be a star of the future. Check him out on YouTube.

Kevin Volland – Not as easy on the eye as Berardi but brimming with German efficiency and pragmatism. Two-footed, pacy, short but well built with good balance. Expect to see the Hoffenheim wide man taking on defenders at will. 9 goals in 18 appearances for the German u21’s is a superb return for a winger. Joint favourite with Harry Kane to win the Golden Boot.

Paulo Oliviera – Portugal’s most experienced u21 player got his big move to Sporting Lisbon last summer and impressed in his first season, making 27 league appearances for the Portuguese Cup winners. Oliviera is not the quickest but at 6ft2 is a commanding presence. Much will be expected from the centre half if Portugal are to progress from a difficult group.

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England National Team

Should Kieran Trippier have missed out on World Cup spot?

The Tottenham Hotspur player is heading to Russia this summer.

Mathew Coull

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Gareth Southgate announced his World Cup squad earlier today and Tottenham Hotspur find themselves well represented yet again. Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Dele Alli and Harry Kane are all present, with the latter expected to captain his nation this summer.

However, the other Tottenham player included can surely count their lucky stars to find themselves included.

A lot of the talk on social media since the announcement of the squad has centred around the right-back position.

Southgate is spoiled for choice with Premier League winner Kyle Walker and Champions League finalist Trent Alexander-Arnold both included in the 23-man squad. With Ashley Young also present, right-back or right wing-back is well covered.

For many, Trippier is now simply taking up a space in the squad. The former Burnley man is indeed a very good player and an excellent crosser of the ball. But with Walker the most consistent right-back in the Premier League this season and Liverpool teen Alexander-Arnold on fire in recent months, Trippier should have naturally been left out.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Many Tottenham fans will of course disagree, but some will also be able to see that Trippier’s inclusion is just not necessary.

His place could have gone to another central midfielder or a wildcard option, someone like Fulham wonderkid Ryan Sessegnon immediately springs to mind.

There is, of course, the fact Walker may be operating as part of a back three this summer, which could allow for the taking of two other right-back options. But he would still be available and ready to move into his more natural position anyway.

The likelihood now is that one of the three players will not get a look in out in Russia, when their spot in the squad could have been used more effectively by Southgate.

As good and consistent as he is, the Tottenham man should have been left at home.

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Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha would surely be in England World Cup squad if he had waited

Wilfried Zaha has been in fine form for Crystal Palace this season.

Mathew Coull

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Crystal Palace fans will be over the moon today, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek was confirmed in the England squad for this summer’s World Cup. Whilst he may be a Chelsea player it is his loan spell with Palace that has helped him make the cut.

But some less informed fans on Twitter have been causing a bit of a stir, by insisting another Palace player should have been in the squad heading to Russia this summer. The player in question is Wilfried Zaha.

Undoubtedly, the 25-year-old would have been a great option for England this summer. His inclusion, perhaps at the expense of Danny Welbeck, would have been popular with fans.

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

But here’s the problem, Zaha has eight caps for the Ivory Coast.

He may have played twice for the senior England team, but last year he decided to change allegiance and play for the country of his birth.

At the time of his decision, it appeared as though Zaha was hitting a glass ceiling with the England team and the decision to play for the West African nation was taken.

He has since gone on to score two goals for his country and he loves representing The Elephants. But it is not difficult to imagine a tinge of regret at his decision.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Zaha has been magnificent this season and played a key role in keeping Palace in the Premier League. He would have surely been an absolute certainty to make the England squad ahead of Welbeck if he had still been eligible.

Unfortunately for Zaha, the Ivory Coast failed to qualify for the World Cup this summer so he will be watching the competition and his buddy Loftus-Cheek from home.

Perhaps Zaha will now regret not giving his England career more time. But Palace fans will be happy their star man can rest up this summer, ahead of a hopefully even better campaign 2018-19.

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England National Team

Exclusive: Jodie Taylor – Seattle Reign start; Phil Neville and World Cup hopes

The forward spoke about her adventures in the United States and time with the England Women’s’ National Team.

Jake Jackman

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Jodie Taylor
Photo: Getty Images

Jodie Taylor has had a globetrotting career to date and made the most of her talent since breaking through at Tranmere Rovers as a 15-year-old.

She is currently playing in the National Women’s Super League with Seattle Reign after joining the team from Melbourne City. It didn’t take her long to make an impact at the club as she scored on her debut against Washington Spirit.

In an exclusive interview with The Boot Room, the England international spoke about the importance of her good start:

“It was great to get my first goal for the club. It is a challenge joining a new club, settling in, getting to know teammates, staff, gelling with players on the pitch. So, to get on the scoresheet so early on in the first game was a great first step.”

The 31-year-old has played in a number of leagues across the world and those experiences have helped her develop into the clinical forward that she is today. However, the USA has provided her best times as a player.

Soon after breaking into the professional game, she took a scholarship with Oregon State University and that gave her a taste of the country. Since then, she has played for several teams in America.

(Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

“I love the US – both on and off the pitch. I love the competitiveness, the speed and the intensity of the game here. There is no easy game, every match is a test physically and mentally. It’s a challenge. Off the pitch I love the lifestyle and the people. The Pacific North West is a beautiful place and I feel fortunate to be at such a great club in a beautiful part of the world.”

It has long been thought that the NWSL is the best domestic league in women’s football and the comments from Taylor show why players opt to move there. The competitiveness of the league helps the development of the players, while the lifestyle of the USA is appealing to European players.

The England international was first introduced to the country as a as a teenager and has been keen to ply her trade there ever since.

Throughout her career, Taylor has spent time in the States, England, Sweden and Australia. Although each country will have provided different challenges, she will have learned equally from each. Consequently, she is keen to encourage other players in the women’s’ game to test themselves in new cultures.

“Playing in different countries, experiencing different philosophies and playing styles, experiencing new cultures, being challenged and being out of my comfort zone has really helped me develop both on and off the pitch and I would recommend more players to experience this.”

Her career path has been unconventional and it held her back for a period. Taylor proved her quality early on as she scored 29 times for Tranmere before taking up a scholarship offer in America.

(Photo by Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images)

It was clear then that she had the tools to play for the national team, but her first England cap didn’t arrive until 2014. This was 12 years after her professional debut.

Since then, she has played her part as the team have become beloved and the increasing support underlines the growth of the women’s game.

“We have come a long way over the past few years. It has taken a lot of hard work, sacrifice and commitment, from both players and staff to get to where we are now (2nd in the world). We have a lot of depth to our squad, which has been huge in tournaments. 

“I hope that when people watch us play, they see heart, desire and pride and what it means to represent England. “

England Women’s captured the hearts of the nations as they made the semi-finals of the 2017 European Championships held in the Netherlands and, although they were eventually knocked out of the competition by the hosts, who went on to lift the trophy, they played some excellent football and emerged as a serious force in the global game.

The tournament also represented Taylor’s breakout as an international star, as she finished as the competition’s Golden Boot winner, with five goals. This included a hat-trick against Scotland during the group stages.

(Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

“I was extremely clinical with my finishing at the Euros. However, I put a lot of my success down to the team. My teammates provided brilliant service and created quality chances to allow me to put the ball in the back of the net. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have scored any of the goals that I did.”

The Seattle Reign forward comes is very humble about her performances during that competition, but it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to those that have followed her career closely. Taylor has scored a signifcant number of goals wherever she has played. Her finishing has only gotten better with added experience.

The European Championships have provided a platform for this England team and it is important that they continue pushing as a group. The World Cup is quickly approaching and Taylor spoke with confidence when discussing the chances of the team.

“I believe it will. In the last two major tournaments we have just fallen short of making it the whole way. We continue to keep improving and no doubt we will be contenders to win the World Cup next summer.”

A controversy involving Mark Sampson meant that the team’s management structure has undergone wholesale change throughout the last six months and that will likely impact England Women’s preparation for the World Cup.

Former Manchester UnitedEverton and England full-back Phil Neville was an unpopular appointment as the new Lionesses’ manager, but Taylor says first impressions have been positive.

“I was really impressed with how much he already knew about women’s football and the teams we faced at She Believes. His knowledge and experience is phenomenal. He’s been there and done it as a player. I have no doubt he will take us to another level.”

(Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Despite his lack of experience in the women’s game, Neville has played at the highest level and he will have expertise to pass down to the current Lionesses’ squad.

Taylor has shown that she is keen to continue learning and her new international manager will help her hone her craft further. She has scored twice since he took charge and will hope to remain a key player heading into the tournamant in France next year.

The game in this country continues to gain exposure and the appointment of Neville is likely a tool to continue that trajectory.

Taylor may now be plying her trade in the USA, but only last season she was playing for Arsenal, with whom she experienced the Women’s Super League first hand.

Her record ended as better than a goal every other game, but she admits that injury affected her time with Arsenal.

“I was a little unfortunate with an Achilles injury during my time at Arsenal. It kept me out for much of my first season and once I was back healthy for the second season the focus was on the National Team and the build up to the European Championships.

“I learned the importance of patience! It is an injury that takes time to heal and I found it very frustrating and difficult to be on the sidelines and to not push getting back on the pitch. The club were supportive throughout the process, which I really appreciated.”

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Although they have been dominant in the Women’s game in the past, Arsenal didn’t win the WSL during Taylor’s spell with the club.

There were some good times for the forward in North London, but her struggles with injury did limit her impact, especially during her debut season.

During her time back in England, there was an improvement in quality, but Taylor admits it remains behind the NWSL.

“The WSL has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Teams such as Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are extremely professional and well supported by the men. The facilities are incredible and are attracting better and better players to the clubs.

“In terms of the standard of the league overall, I don’t think the WSL is as competitive as the NWSL, as a whole, and still needs to improve the teams outside of the top clubs.”

At the age of 31, Taylor has already achieved a lot in her career and has been playing at a high level for over ten years. However, there is a lot more for her to achieve.

The NWSL and World Cup will be her priority with team success being the main objective.

It would be remarkable if England did win the competition for the first time in their history. If they are to achieve that, the Seattle Reign star will have a part to play.

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