England U21 - Portugal U21: Southgate's ambitious lions play opening Euro game
England U21 vs Portugal U21 Match Preview

The Young Lions, the future of English football, will look to kick off their European Championship campaign with three points against Portugal U21.

Gareth Southgate's side have spoken of their ambition ahead of the tournament in the Czech Republic.

Truthfully, they have the right to be ambitious and the opening match against Portugal on Thursday evening will be vital if they are to progress past the group stages.

FORM

England

  • Last five games: WWWLW
  • Top scorer in European Championship qualifying: Saido Berhaino (10 goals)

England's pre-tournament warm up games involved a 3-1 win over local rivals Republic of Ireland, at the new national training complex, St George's Park. After that game on June 5th, they won again, this time against Belarus at Barnsley's Oakwell stadium, with Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson scoring late on.

Portugal

  • Last five games: LDLWW
  • Top scorer in European Championship qualifying: Ricardo (5 goals)

Portugal had to use the play-off system in the European Championship qualifying to ensure they got to the Czech Republic. A 2-0 win in the Netherlands saw them with the advantage going into the second leg where they came out on top in a nine goal thriller in October 2014.

Since that 11 goal two-legged tie, they've been beaten by their opponents on Thursday, England, 3-1 before drawing 0-0 with Denmark and losing 1-0 to the tournament's hosts, the Czech Republic. They won the all important play off but haven't won anything, only scoring once, in three pre-tournament friendlies.

COACHES

Gareth Southgate: In his third season in charge of the Young Lions, appointed at the start of the 2013/14 season, Southgate now has a contract which runs until 2017, a reward for his brilliant work at the helm. 

In his playing career, he made more than 500 appearances for Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. For his country, he's famous for a penalty miss but still made 57 appearances in the historic England shirt. 

As England U21 manager he has now taken the side to 15 victories out of 17 games, a stunning record. The development in the English youth game has been accelerated by Southgate and his side, with the side no longer delusional, a real challenger for Europe's biggest youth trophy.

Rui Jorge: The successor of Oceano Cruz in 2010, now at the helm for half a decade. Jorge appeared for Portugal on 45 occasions. He spent 17 years at Porto from the start of his career as a young kid to leaving in 1998 for Sporting Lisbon

This will be his first tournament with Portugal U21, having failed to take them to both the 2011 and 2013 U21 European Championships.

SQUADS

England

Goalkeepers

Marcus Bettinelli (Fulham) - Jonathan Bond (Watford) - Jack Butland (Stoke City)

Defenders

Calum Chambers (Arsenal) - Luke Garbutt (Everton) - Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough) - Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, loaned to West Ham United) - Michael Keane (Burnley) - Liam Moore (Leicester City) - John Stones (Everton) - Matt Targett (Southampton)

Midfielders

Tom Carroll (Tottenham Hotspur) - Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea) - Will Hughes (Derby County) - Jake Forster-Caskey (Brighton & Hove Albion) - Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) - Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea) - Alex Pritchard (Tottenham Hotspur) - Nathan Redmond (Norwich City) - James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

Forwards

Saido Berahino (West Bromwich Albion) - Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) - Danny Ings (Burnley)

Portugal

Goalkeepers

Jose Sa (Maritimo) - Daniel Fernandes (Osnabruck) - Bruno Varela (Benfica).

Defenders

Tiago Ilori (Liverpool) - Paulo Oliveira (Sporting) - Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient) - Joao Cancelo (Valencia) - Tobias Figueiredo (Sporting) - Federico Venancio (Vitoria).

Midfielders

Ricardo Esgaio (Sporting) - William Carvalho (Sporting) - Rafa Silva (Braga) - Sergio Oliveira (Porto) - Bernardo Silva (Monaco) - Ruben Neves (Porto) - Ivan Cavaleiro (Sporting) - Toze (Porto) - Joao Mario (Sporting).

Forwards

Goncalo Paciencia (Porto) - Iuri Medeiros - Carlos Mane (Sporting) - Ricardo Horta (Malaga) - Ricardo Pereira (Porto).

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