Euro U21: Semi-final spots on the line as England face Italy

Portugal, Sweden also vying for <br /> last-four berths


News Desk June 23, 2015
Jesse Lingard of England (C) celebrates with his teammate Nathan Redmond after scoring against Sweden during the UEFA Under-21 European Championship. PHOTO: AFP

England U21s may be facing familiar foes in Italy U21 — with the two sides having faced each other four times before since 2000 in the European U21 Championship — but with a semi-final spot up for grabs, there will be no quarter given when the two sides take to the field in their final Group B clash at Olomouc.

A win will be enough for England to qualify, regardless of results elsewhere. While a draw would see them sweating over the Sweden-Portugal game as a Sweden win would knock them out. Italy, meanwhile, need to win and hope that Portugal defeat Sweden if they are to have any hopes of making it through to the next round. A loss for either side would see them suffer the ignominy of an early exit from the tough group.

However, England remain positive after having scraped a narrow win against Sweden. “It was just a massive relief for everyone in the camp,” said Manchester United starlet Jesse Lingard, who had scored the only goal against Sweden in the 85th minute. “The team spirit and togetherness of our squad is really good and we are going into the Italy game fully focused.”



Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio, on the other hand, will be hoping for a better performance than the one they delivered in their 0-0 draw against Portugal. However, being the only side without a recognised full international among their ranks, the Azzurrini have found going tough and are yet to register a win in the group.

Portugal take on Sweden

Portugal top the group with four points and need just a draw in order to make it through to the semis, while even a loss can see them through if the England-Italy match ends in a draw.

Sweden though need a victory to be sure of qualification but will also be looking to avenge their loss in the 2004 third place play-off against the Portuguese.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th,  2015.

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