Eng U21s bid to go one better at Euros than side Ozil left in ruins

Smith Rowe flying, Hudson-Odoi and Jones thriving in the Premier League and Nketiah with a point to prove – England boast an array of attacking talent as they launch their U21s Euros bid hoping to go one better than 2009 side Ozil destroyed

  • England’s U21 European Championship starts on Thursday against Switzerland
  • England will also play against Portugal and Croatia in a tricky Group D draw 
  • Aidy Boothroyd’s side is loaded with an array of Premier League proven talent 

An England Under 21 squad filled with attacking get their European Championship campaign underway against Switzerland today, chasing a third tournament title and their first final since 2009.

Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions face Switzerland on Thursday afternoon before meeting Portugal on Sunday and Croatia next Wednesday in a tricky Group D. The top two teams will progress to the knock-out rounds of this staggered tournament, which begins on May 31.

England’s two past glories in this tournament came in 1982 and 1984 and more recently, they made the final in 2009 before being thrashed 4-0 by a Germany side containing Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer and Mats Hummels.

Curtis Jones is gearing up for England’s U21’s European Championship group stage matches

Aidy Boothroyd’s young lions begin the tournament against Switzerland on Thursday

In 2009, England made the final but were beaten 4-0 by a Mesut Ozil-led Germany team

So how can this tournament be different? Well, a look over the talent at Boothroyd’s disposal shows England are full of attacking flair and players that are well known to anyone who is regular follower of the Premier League.

Eddie Nketiah was England’s top scorer in qualifying and with reports emerging on the eve of the Switzerland game that he is concerned about his playing time at Arsenal, a competitive international fixture comes at a significant time. 

He has a point to prove, be it to Gunners boss Mikel Arteta or any other admirers who might be contemplating a move in the summer transfer window. 

His Arsenal team-mate Emile Smith-Rowe is riding the crest of the wave in his breakthrough season in the Gunners fold and his current form means he will be one to watch in the upcoming matches.

Boothroyd underlined his anticipation of working with Smith-Rowe, who was yet to win an Under 21 cap.

‘His form for Arsenal has been outstanding and both him and Bukayo [Saka] could consider themselves Arsenal’s best two players over the last couple of months,’ Boothroyd  said.

‘Emile has also been in the pathway, he hasn’t played for the under-21s yet but we’re delighted to have Emile and I’m looking forward to working with him.

‘We can talk about his technical qualities, but he’s so honest in what he does. He’s so desperate to do well and you can see his willingness to get involved.

‘He sees things happening before they occur and we’re only seeing the start of it now – we could have a very good player on our hands.’

Emile Smith Rowe is in the England squad for the first time after starring for Arsenal

Smith Rowe’s Gunners team-mate Eddie Nketiah was England’s top scorer during qualifying

Callum Hudson-Odoi has gone from strength to strength at Chelsea under the guidance of Thomas Tuchel since he replaced Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge. 

Attacking midfielders such as Curtis Jones, one of Liverpool’s standout performers in a difficult season, and Ebere Eze are also in contention, as is Burnley attacker Dwight McNeil who capped his impressive form of late with a stunning goal in the 2-1 win at Everton earlier in March.  

Sadly for England and Boothroyd, there was some bad news earlier this week when Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood was ruled out of the squad with an injury. He was replaced by Todd Cantwell at Norwich.

Further back, Bothroyd will need his defensive ranks to be ordered and resolute if England are to avoid accusations of being too top-heavy a side.

Callum Hudson-Odoi has been flourishing at Chelsea since Thomas Tuchel arrived there

Eberechi Eze is in the squad after an impressive debut Premier League season at Crystal Palace

Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale is the contender to start between the sticks, while Everton’s Ben Godfrey has been in impressive form of late for Carlo Ancelotti’s team.

Norwich’s Max Aarons is not to be forgotten, either – in the summer, he was linked with moves to Bayern Munich and Barcelona but was priced out of a move. This tournament is a superb platform for him to show why two of Europe’s elite, one of which was fresh from winning the Champions League, were interested in signing him.

There’s ample opportunity for others, too. Rhian Brewster has endured a tough season at Sheffield United and is yet to even score after a big money move to the Blades from Liverpool. An international break might come at a good time. 

Meanwhile, Tottenham’s Ryan Sessegnon joins up with a season of Bundesliga football under his belt after his loan move to Hoffenheim while Conor Gallagher has been a bright spot in a hard season for West Brom, where he is on loan from Chelsea.

From the 2009 runners-up, James Milner has gone on to enjoy the most successful career

Theo Walcott was also in the England team that were defeated 4-0 by Germany

The most decorated names in the England side that, nearly 12 years ago, was left in ruins by Ozil and Germany were James Milner and Theo Walcott. Scott Loach was in goal, Micah Richards was in defence and Fabrice Muamba, Lee Cattermole and Mark Noble were partnering Milner in midfield.

No matter how far this England Under 21 side go in the coming weeks and months, many would tip the present squad to have more decorated careers than that one. 

Throughout the ranks,England’s international setup is truly burgeoning with talent, and there is an immense opportunity here for Boothroyd and his team to show it.


Goalkeepers: Josef Bursik (Stoke City), Josh Griffiths (Cheltenham Town, loan from West Bromwich Albion), Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United)

Defenders: Max Aarons (Norwich City), Ben Godfrey (Everton), Marc Guehi (Swansea City, loan from Chelsea), Lloyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth), Ryan Sessegnon (Hoffenheim, loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Steven Sessegnon (Bristol City, loan from Fulham), Japhet Tanganga (Tottenham Hotspur), Ben Wilmot (Watford)

Midfielders: Tom Davies (Everton), Ebere Eze (Crystal Palace), Conor Gallagher (West Bromwich Albion, loan from Chelsea), Curtis Jones (Liverpool), Dwight McNeil (Burnley), Oliver Skipp (Norwich City, loan from Tottenham Hotspur)

Attackers: Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United), Todd Cantwell (Norwich City), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Noni Madueke (PSV Eindhoven), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal)


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