Aidy Boothroyd’s Under-21 side have acquitted themselves well in this summer’s tournament in Poland, but face a tough match against the hosts on Thursday as they look to book a semi-final slot. A victory against Slovakia U21 and a draw against Sweden U21 puts the Three Lions top of group A, but with only the group winner guaranteed to progress to the last four it’s all still to play for.
There are three groups in the competition, the winner of each progresses to the semi-finals along with the best runner-up from across the groups. Spain have already booked their place in the last four after two wins against Portugal and Macedonia in group B, while Germany and Italy look set to battle it out for top spot in group C.
As things stand, judging by the shape of each group, England’s young guns are likely to need a win to secure passage, and even a draw may prove insufficient to finish as the best runner-up. Depending on other results though, a draw could be enough to see them finish top of the section, but that would require a draw between Sweden and Slovakia’s under-21 teams. That match will be played at the same time on Thursday night, so there are no advantages to be gained. As for the hosts Poland, a draw with Sweden and defeat to Slovakia means that they are out, regardless of the result against England.
Poland U21 v England U21
We’re backing the English youngsters to beat Poland on their own soil and guarantee that semi final slot by winning the group. Odds of -161 with SkyBet, Paddy Power and Betway are worth taking because the Poles have not covered themselves in glory so far in the competition.
Their opening match finished with a 2-1 defeat to Slovakia, despite making the perfect start and taking the lead in the 1st minute. A 2-2 draw with Sweden followed three days later, but even this required a 91st minute penalty for the host nation to snatch a point. that result played very nicely into England’s hands too, as it kept daylight between them and the Swedes. This is a last chance for Poland to retain some pride, but on paper at least, England appear to be the superior side.
England opened the tournament with a 0-0 draw against Sweden, but Monday’s 2-1 victory over Slovakia has sent them to the top of the pile. They fell behind in that match during the first half, but Alfie Mawson grabbed a scrappy equaliser before Nathan Redmond’s powerful strike in the 61st minute won it for the Three Lions. There have been plenty of question marks over England’s performances so far, but they’ve done just about enough to get to this stage. The goalless draw with Sweden was a drab affair in which England were ponderous and failed to register more than a single shot on target in the whole 90 minutes. it was a slow start again versus Slovakia, but Aidy Boothroyd’s change of system to a diamond formation in midfield eventually paid dividends with those two second half goals.
There are unlikely to be second chances for England and rather than rely on the other two teams in the group to draw, the English are expected to go out and look for three points against a Polish side which is rock bottom of the group.
Slovakia U21 v Sweden U21
Thursday’s other match is hard to call, so the best bet may just be a punt on over 2.5 goals at -133 with Betfair.
Both of these teams could overtake England and win the group if Poland get a result, so both will be looking for the three points and the victory. Both of Slovakia’s games at the tournament have ended 2-1 and would have overcome the goal line, while Sweden’s 2-2 draw with Poland suggests they are capable of both scoring and conceding. Looking further back at the teams’ relative form shows that five of Sweden’s last ten games have exceeded the 2.5 goal mark, while nine of Slovakia’s last ten have had at least three goals.
An open game in which two sides have nothing to lose but everything to gain could lead to an end-to-end encounter and there is plenty of potential for goals.
England U21 to beat Poland U21
Thursday 22nd June, 19:45 GMT
Slovakia U21 v Sweden U21 – Over 2.5 Goals
Thursday 22nd June, 19:45 GMT