England’s senior side are shining right now, following a rousing 3-0 victory over Scotland. But their young counterparts are also catching the eye, with Aidy Boothroyd’s men heading into tomorrow’s game against France in incredible form.
They cruised to the Under-21 European Championship in style, winning six and drawing two of their eight qualifying games – chalking up the joint-best defensive record on the continent in the process – ahead of next summer’s tournament in Poland.
We take a look at five of the rising stars in the Young Lions’ ranks.
GK: Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United)
Current caretaker Boothroyd and previous Under-21s manager Gareth Southgate have unsurprisingly rotated between several talented young keepers, but Woodman’s impressive displays for club and country mean he could be the brightest hope of all.
The teenage stopper was promoted from the Under-19s for the qualifier in Kazakhstan, and adapted superbly, keeping a clean sheet as England won 1-0 in Aktobe.
With an excellent loan stint at Crawley Town under his belt – chalking up four clean sheets in 11 league games – the future is bright for the Croydon-born keeper.
CB: Kortney Hause (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
He may not turn 22 until next summer, but commanding centre-back Hause has already already played over 100 senior games – a real testament to the abilities of a player who has the heart of a lion.
Hard-working, tenacious and extremely robust, the no-nonsense centre back has proved impossible for some of Europe’s brightest young strikers to get past.
But he’s not merely a big, tough defender. The Wolves man has also chipped in with some intelligent goals and assists for both his club, and England’s youth sides.
CM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)
A key figure as England won the Toulon Tournament in France this summer, it’s hard to believe the Chelsea prodigy is just 20-years-old, so complete is his game.
Every bit the ‘big-game player’, he neatly tucked away England’s winner to clinch victory in the Toulon final, while he also found the net twice during the Under-21s Euros qualifying campaign – against Norway and Kazakhstan respectively.
Skilful, intelligent and blessed with incredible acceleration, the Young Lions’ man in the middle is shining ever brighter.
RW: Duncan Watmore (Sunderland)
England’s 3-1 qualifying victory over highly-rated Switzerland was secured with a dazzling solo performance from the Sunderland man, who netted with a long-range cracker, as well as providing two assists – all in the final 10 minutes of the game.
A key creative force for the Lions throughout qualifying, he also ran Bosnia & Herzegovina ragged in the 5-0 battering of Darko Nestorovic’s men.
Now a regular for the Black Cats in the Premier League, the university graduate has passed every test on the pitch with top marks.
CF: Tammy Abraham (Bristol City)
Much like fellow teenage England striker Marcus Rashford, Abraham went from relative obscurity to footballing fame almost overnight.
The Camberwell-born hitman took precisely no time in announcing himself at Bristol City, netting six times in his first seven games in the Championship – and he’s already on 12 for the season in all competitions.
But he’s been just as bright on international duty, netting twice as the Young Lions demolished Bosnia 5-0 in qualifying, before a useful cameo away at Kazakhstan.
England Under-21s look to extend their unbeaten run to 11 games, as they head to France Under-21s for Tuesday night’s friendly.
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