The Young Lions face a tough test against fellow heavyweights Italy U17s in their first Group D game of the U17 European Championships in Bulgaria.
Manager John Peacock is looking forward to 'a real entertaining game' on Thursday evening; “England v Italy is always a great game. We played each other at the beginning of the season, but a lot has changed since then and these games are always special whatever level they are played at.
“We are all really excited for it, and I’m sure Italy are too, so it should be a real entertaining game on Thursday.”
Peacock is right when he says the U17 teams of England and Italy have had some good matches. In late August last year they shared a thrilling encounter with England triumphing 4-3.
England U17s arrive in Bulgaria having made a statement with their qualification campaign. Retaining a 100% record in the qualifiers, England beat Macedonia, France and Cyprus comprehensively in the qualifiers. Then, in the elite round, they stormed through with a 100% record once more, beating Norway, Slovenia and Romania - Peacock was obviously pleased at this brilliant run of results into the finals, "My team did everything I asked of them during all three elite round fixtures – and to win all three is very pleasing,"
Captain Reece Oxford says Italy will be a test for him but he wants to be a test for them, "I’m looking forward to it, they will be a test for me, but I am looking to try and test them too,"
Stuttgart defender, Danny Collinge says the Young Lions are ready for a tough match against Italy after settling in well in Bulgaria.
"Matches against Italy are always special anyway. They are unlike any other team as they have their own style. We’ve been doing our work to try and counter that and exploit their weaknesses.
"So it’s a tough opening game, but to win any tournament you have to beat the best teams and that’s exactly what we’ll be looking to do.
"We’ve settled in well. We are staying in a lovely hotel, everything we need is catered for and we are able to really focus on the job in hand.
"Training has been good and we have acclimatised to the conditions, which is always important, and we are looking forward to get started now.
"We are all excited and it is our first experience of a big European tournament. It’s a big opportunity that we are all relishing,
"I’m sure there will be some nerves as we arrive at the stadium, but I think the boys are experienced enough to handle that having played in big games for their club's youth teams."
Meanwhile, Italy also looked impressive in both the qualifying round and elite round. Whilst they maintained an unbeaten record they couldn't match England's brilliant winning streak.
Bruno Tedino's side beat Armenia and Moldova by three goals each in qualifying but could only manage a draw against Iceland. In the elite round that followed, they took care of Ukraine and Slovakia easily but Germany proved the challenge for them as they drew 2-2 in the final match before the tournament.
In terms of facing each other in this competition and it's qualifying, England and Italy are joint on everything. With 7 games played between the two sides, both sides have won 2, drawn 3 and lost 2 while scoring 7 and conceding 7.
Who to look out for
Layton Ndukwu - The Leicester City forward began England's qualifying campaign with a stunning hat-trick against Cyprus and added another to his score-sheet later on in the elite rounds.
Danny Collinge - The only foreign player selected in the England squad is one of the best. Playing his trade at Vfb Stuttgart, Collinge is a solid centre back who marks his authority on any forward he comes up against.
However, although he is selected for England, Collinge has Italian roots. "My mother is from Italy so I’m half Italian," revealed Collinge. "I have family living in Italy and I go out there to visit them quite often."
But he says he wants to be a Three Lions man, "I’ve been brought up playing football for clubs in England, I have an English philosophy and I feel it’s only right that I play for England – and above everything else, I want to."
Patrick Cutrone - The stats tell you all you need to know about this young Italian. He scored an incredible 7 goals in 5 games during qualifying, eclipsing Ndukwu's goal tally for England.
Andres Llamas - As a defender, his duty is to protect the goal. Yet it is at the other end of the field where Llamas excelled in qualifying, scoring three times in six appearances. In terms of defending he has a lot of potential to make it in Italian football as well.
1 Paul Woolston
13 William Huffer
2 James Yates
3 Jay Dasilva
5 Reece Oxford
6 Danny Collinge
12 Adetayo Edun
15 Easah Suliman
4 Tom Davies
7 Nathan Holland
8 Daniel Wright
10 Marcus Edwards
14 Trent Arnold
18 Herbie Kane
9 Ike Ugbo
11 Chris Willock
16 Stephy Mavididi
17 Layton Ndukwu
- 1 Gianluigi Donnarumma
- 12 Tommaso Cucchietti
- 2 Giuseppe Scalera
- 3 Federico Giraudo
- 4 Alessandro Mattioli
- 5 Andrea Malberti
- 6 Andres Llamas
- 7 Luca Coccolo
- 8 Edoardo Degl'Innocenti
- 9 Filippo Melegoni
- 10 Manuel Locatelli
- 11 Mattia El Hilali
- 13 Luca Matarese
- 14 Alessandro Eleuteri
- 15 Simone Lo Faso
- 16 Patrick Cutrone
- 17 Gianluca Scamacca
- 18 Simone Mazzocchi