England progressed to the elite phase of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship after a stalemate against Italy ensured they finished the qualifying round top of Group 4.
Following victories in testing weather conditions against group hosts FYR Macedonia and Finland, Aidy Boothroyd’s boys took to the field in Skopje knowing a point would be enough to progress as group winners, thus cementing a potentially favourable draw in the last round of qualifying next spring.
“I am pleased because it wasn’t an easy group,” said the England Under-19s boss after the game.
England 0-0 Italy
UEFA Under-19 Championship
Tuesday 13 October 2015
Nacionalna Arena Filip II Makedonski
“I think when you look at the groups initially in this round you’re hoping that it’s going to be a lot more of a comfortable than what we had.
“We had three teams that were very strong, very powerful – and the Italians are a very good team.
“We managed to play the conditions, which we did in the first two games, and in the third game although we knocked on the door several times and hit the crossbar.
“It was a pretty even game with both teams trying to win it.
“We got what we needed to top the group and that’s what we were after all along, so I’m pleased with the outcome.”
Italy also went into Tuesday afternoon’s game knowing that they would be through if they avoided defeat.
But despite the permutations both sides pushed and pressed for an opener throughout the entertaining opening exchanges.
With 11 minutes on the clock, after fine play from Dan Crowley, Liverpool forward Sheyi Ojo latched onto a Patrick Roberts' pull back but saw his effort crash onto the crossbar.
Italy were also determined to make their presence felt and threatened on a number of occasions.
The closest of which came midway through the first half when defender Federico Dimarco also struck the woodwork.
However, Newcastle United stopper Freddie Woodman remained unbeaten - just as he had in the previous two games - and the Young Lions recorded their third shut-out of the campaign.
“As coaches we are trying to get the best out of every individual and to try and develop them, and develop winning teams”
Aidy Boothroyd England Under-19s head coach
Something else, Boothroyd said, his team can be proud of – and can build upon as their international careers progress.
“For this group to have kept three clean sheets and to win the group is a great achievement, particularly in the conditions,” he added.
“There is a winning mentality amongst us but we’ve still got lots of things to learn – as a group and as individuals.
“Every time we have an international fixture it’s an opportunity for them to learn something so that eventually when they put that senior shirt on they’ve had plenty of really good experiences.
“As coaches we are trying to get the best out of every individual and to try and develop them, and develop winning teams – which is what we’re all about.”
The draw for the elite round takes place on 3 December, with the fixtures played in March 2016.
The Finals, to be held in Germany, will be played between 11-24 July 2016.
England U19s (4-4-2): 1 Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United); 12 Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham Hotspur), 15 Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), 6 Jake Clarke-Salter (C) (Chelsea), 2 Jonjoe Kenny (Everton); 17 Sheyi Ojo (Wolverhampton Wanderers, on loan from Liverpool), 8 Lewis Cook (Leeds United), 4 Jordan Rossiter (Liverpool), 7 Patrick Roberts (Manchester City); 11 Dan Crowley (Barnsley, on loan from Arsenal), 9 Adam Armstrong (Coventry City, on loan Newcastle United).
Substitutes: 10 Dom Solanke (Vitesse Arnhem, on loan from Chelsea) for Ojo HT. 18 Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) for Crowley 59. 14 Josh Onomah (Tottenham Hotspur) for Armstrong 68.
Substitutes not used: 13 Sam Howes (West Ham United), 3 Callum Connolly (Everton), 5 Taylor Moore (Lens), 16 Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Ipswich Town, on loan from Arsenal)
Bookings: Roberts, Rossiter
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
Italy U19s (4-2-3-1): 1 Alex Meret; 2 Davide Vitturini, 5 Filippo Romagna, 6 Mauro Coppolaro, 3 Federico Dimarco; 4 Nicolo Barella, 8 Alberto Picchi; 18 Paolo Ghiglione, 16 Manuel Locatelli, 7 Manuel Locatelli (C); 10 Luca Vido.
Substitutes: 17 Simone Edera for Ghiglione 65. 11 Alfredo Bifulco for Vido 80.
Substitutes not used: 12 Andrea Zaccagno, 13 Diego Borghini, 15 Andres Llamas, ,
Bookings: Vitturini, Picchi, Barella, Minelli.
Head coach: Paolo Vanoli
Referee: Alejandro Hernandez (ESP)