Norwich City winger Jacob Murphy hoping to reclaim starting spot for England U21s' crucial clash at European Championship
PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 June 2017
England Under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd admits the Young Lions must win their group to guarantee their Euro 2017 progress.
They will qualify for the semi-finals with victory over hosts Poland in Kielce this evening (7.45pm UK time), with Norwich City winger Jacob Murphy hoping to return to the starting line-up.
While on-loan Canaries keeper Angus Gunn has only acted as cover for number one Jordan Pickford so far, Murphy started the 0-0 draw against Sweden and then came on at half-time against Slovakia, playing a key part in turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win, with former Norwich winger Nathan Redmond scoring the crucial winner.
That three points means England top Group A ahead of the final round of fixtures as they aim to reach the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time since 2009.
Second-placed Slovakia are a point behind and also play Sweden in Lublin today with every team in the group capable of qualifying.
Boothroyd said: “The way the tournament is set up with the winners of the group and the best runners-up going through, when you’ve got the teams that are in the other groups like Portugal, Germany and Italy, you know you have to win your group.
“We were quite pleased with a point from our first game but it’s taken a bit of waking up to realise that we had to win that game and we have to win this one too. We don’t want to put our future in anyone else’s hands.
“We’re here to go as far as we can and if we keep improving then why can’t we reach the semis and go beyond that?
“But first things first, what we definitely won’t do is get carried away and complacent. We’ve got a job to do against a really good team with 15,000 people behind them and against us.”
Midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah agreed with Boothroyd after a draw with Sweden and victory over Slovakia moved England top but refused to start looking at the knockout stages yet.
He said: “It would be a great achievement. But it’s more about focusing on the game tomorrow and making sure things are in our hands.
“If we can get past (Poland) then we can start focusing on the semis and hopefully going on to win the tournament.”
England Under-21s face hosts Poland in their final Group A game in Kielce aiming to reach the Euro 2017 semi-finals.
Victory at the Kolporter Arena would seal a last-four spot and, here, Press Association Sport looks at the major talking points from the game.
HOW CAN ENGLAND QUALIFY?
Victory will guarantee the Young Lions their first semi-final spot at the Euros since 2009 - when they reached the final and lost to Germany. If both games finish in draws then England will go through. Anything else than a win would leave them sweating on the result in Lublin where Slovakia and Sweden play.
WHO WILL PLAY RIGHT-BACK FOR ENGLAND?
Jacob Murphy’s surprise introduction at right-back for Mason Holgate at half-time against Slovakia helped turn the tide and save England. The Norwich winger has not played in defence before but acquitted himself well, standing up to any Slovakia pressure, and set up Alfie Mawson’s crucial equaliser. Murphy’s delivery was key with Everton’s Holgate struggling with his crossing when he got in range of the area. It was a bold move from boss Aidy Boothroyd and with Murphy impressing in Poland so far he now has a decision to make. Calum Chambers and Rob Holding are also options.
CAN THE LATEST TRANSFER TARGETS KEEP COOL?
Will Hughes and Tammy Abraham have both been linked with moves a little over 24 hours before the key game against Poland. Striker Abraham looks certain to join Swansea on loan from Chelsea while Derby midfielder Hughes is reportedly wanted by Watford. Jordan Pickford completed his £30million move from Sunderland to Everton last week with minimum fuss – even saving a penalty in the 0-0 draw against Sweden. Boothroyd will want the next pair linked with transfers to keep their cool as their profiles continue to rise.
CAN ENGLAND COPE WITH ANOTHER PARTISAN CROWD?
The Young Lions have dealt with being the ‘away’ side twice already with Sweden and Slovakia supporters outnumbering any travelling England fans. With Slovakia just 140 miles away they came over in their thousands while Sweden brought around 5,000 supporters. Neither gave England the best reception - with Abraham being targeted by the Slovakians after they thought he was feigning injury. Poland is another level up but England have handled the heat so far and there is no reason to suggest they will falter this time.
HOW DO THE OLDER PLAYERS FEEL?
Pickford, James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond and Nathaniel Chalobah are among the players who will all be too old to represent the Under-21s after the tournament. There is a real desire from the players to ensure they bow out on a high and not on another failure, which many of them have experienced in the past three tournaments. The group is strong, have had a positive build-up and after age-group success for the Under-20s, Under-17s and a Toulon Tournament they are determined to match their younger counterparts.