After a couple of days of pre-tournament training in a sunny Germany, Aidy Boothroyd’s England under-19 side will face France in a tough opening encounter of the 2016 European Championships, in Heidenheim.
Following defeat in the final on home soil for France, they’ll be aiming to emulate their 2010 under-19 success, that team containing Euro 2016 top goalscorer Antoine Griezmann.
In six years’ time, Qatar will be hosting the World Cup and should history repeat itself as with Griezmann, the players on show in Germany for these two sides could be making appearances in 2022.
France u19 - England u19, kick-off at 6:30PM BST
There are some relative newbies in England’s squad in Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori, who was called up alongside Charlton Athletic’s Ademola Lookman for the first time in June.
Meanwhile, France’s squad was set to contain well-known figures like Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman but he was a key part of France’s Euro 2016 campaign. Kylian Mbappé is one player to look out for after an impressive qualifying campaign for this tournament.
England’s qualifying was a great success, going unbeaten in both stages. Boothroyd’s side won four games, drawing a further three. Worryingly, perhaps, their victories came over, in the majority, weaker sides, including FYR Macedonia, Finland, and Georgia. One win did come against Spain but draws against the traditional ‘top sides’ Netherlands and Italy could be a worry.
Getting off to a quick start is a necessity for a good tournament, although Portugal somewhat denied that belief at Euro 2016. This England under-19 side have had, in parts, success before under John Peacock at the 2014 under-17 European Championships, beating the Netherlands on penalties in the final. Both goalkeepers Howes and Woodman were a part of that squad as well as Jonjoe Kenny, Izzy Brown, Taylor Moore, Josh Onomah, Dominic Solanke, and Ryan Ledson.
One player who was a part of that squad has been pulled out after a move to Premier League side AFC Bournemouth. Lewis Cook was pulled out by his manager at Leeds United, Garry Monk, and Boothroyd will be without the midfielder, thoroughly impressive in the Championship.
Not only will a win see England in a good position to qualify for the knockout stages, in doing so they would seal a place in the U20 World Cup in 2017.
Aidy Boothroyd described himself and the squad as “really excited” having got ready to get “the best players in the best condition and well prepared for a tournament.”
“The players are looking forward to it,” said Boothroyd. Striker Adam Armstrong, on loan at Coventry City from Newcastle United last season, is injured and hence not in the squad, but has backed his teammates for success in Germany. He told the FA that even with him “not being there” the squad is “still strong enough for the lads to go and win it and prepare for the World Cup, which will be next year at u20s.”
Boothroyd has also spoken about the focus on qualifying for the U20 World Cup. He suggested that the “aim is to qualify for the [under-20] World Cup in South Korea next year, so we can get another tough experience into the players.”
To do that, England must finish in the top two of Group A which Boothroyd said is “difficult because [England are] playing the likes of Holland, France, and Croatia.”
All three sides are “very strong teams and powerhouses in Europe” and thus it will be a challenge for England to finish in the top two and be in the semi-finals but England “want to get into the final and we want to win it.”
Full England under-19 squad
Sam Howes [West Ham United], Freddie Woodman [Newcastle United]
Callum Connolly [Everton], Dael Fry [Middlesbrough], Jonjoe Kenny [Everton], Taylor Moore [RC Lens], Fikayo Tomori [Chelsea], Kyle Walker-Peters [Tottenham Hotspur]
Ryan Ledson [Everton], Ainsley Maitland-Niles [Arsenal], Joshua Onomah [Tottenham Hotspur], Reece Oxford [West Ham], Jordan Rossiter [Rangers]
Tammy Abraham [Chelsea], Isaiah Brown [Chelsea], Ademola Lookman [Charlton Athletic], Sheyi Ojo [Liverpool], Dominic Solanke [Chelsea]