Aidy Boothroyd on Euro semi: 'This is where we want to be'

Monday 18 Jul 2016
England Under-19s head coach Aidy Boothroyd at the Euro Finals in Germany

England Under-19s boss Aidy Boothroyd admits he always had a feeling his side might meet Italy in the Euro semi-finals this summer.

The two nations have already played each other once this season back in October, when they met in their final game of the first qualifying round.

It ended all square in Macedonia on that occasion but, with plenty of football played since then, Boothroyd has seen enough of the Azzurri to know what threat they can pose to his team.

England v Italy

UEFA European U19 Championship
11am (BST), Thursday 21 July 2016
Carl-Benz Stadium, Mannheim, Germany
Live on Eurosport

"We know Italy reasonably well because we played them in qualifying in Macedonia back in October, which seems like a very long time ago," he revealed.

"But we know about our opponent and I always had half a feeling that we might meet them in the semi-final stages.

"They are a very good team, otherwise they wouldn’t be here, so they will be a difficult opponent and it’s a game that we’re looking forward to which is what you want in a semi-final and looking to go through to the final.

"When we played last, it was the final [qualifying] game and we’d won the group but they needed a point to come through otherwise Finland were going to go through instead.

"So we played on the national stadium pitch, it was a 0-0 draw and we got to know a little bit about them and their players.

"Two things that they are really good at is pressing without the ball and they combine very well as a team.

England Under-19s celebrate their dramatic win over the Netherlands at the 2016 UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals

Boothroyd's squad have beaten France, Netherlands and Croatia at the Euro Finals so far

"They’re definitely well organised and they’ll definitely fancy their chances, so we’ve got to make sure we’re at our best to beat them."

Thursday’s game in Mannheim will be the first time Boothroyd’s men have tasted the reality of a knock-out stage this season, after previously winning both of their qualifying groups in October and March.

And with three wins from their three games so far at the finals, he knows now is not the time for his team to let their standards slip.

"It’s knock-out football now, so if you make one mistake then the game can go against you so we’ve just got to make sure that we do our absolute best and stick to the game plan," he added.

"Our players have shown in the tournament so far what they’re all about, so can we fulfill our potential and see if we can get a good result and go through to the final?

"That’s always been the aim, to get into the semis and then into the final, that’s where we want to be. 

“We have good strength in depth in this particular age group but it's a programme which we’re all working hard to improve every year ”

Aidy Boothroyd 

"But we won’t be looking beyond this game because the important thing is making sure we get through."

The situation isn’t completely alien to many of the England squad, with nine players in this group having already won a Euro title with the U17s two years ago.

John Peacock’s side beat Portugal in the semi-final on that occasion before going on to defeat the Dutch to seal the title and Boothroyd is pleased that English players continue to experience scenarios such as this throughout the various development teams.

"It’s a big factor, that’s the whole point behind the development programme, to give our players the opportunities and experiences of coming out and being in tournament football so that by the time they get to the senior team, they’re ready," he said.

"Playing in semi-finals, finals, penalty competitions, group stages, playing in different places, playing on different pitches and conditions and all that goes with that – all those things go into the makeup of what we’re trying to develop for the senior team to enable them to be able to perform at England level through the experiences they have got with the development teams.

England Under-19s boss Aidy Boothroyd urges his side on against the Dutch

Aidy Boothroyd urges his side on against the Dutch in their game against the Netherlands last week

"Our U15s, U16s, U18s and U20s are going out and playing world opposition and getting involved in penalty competitions and knowing what it’s like to play in different continents.

"And our U17s, U19s and U21s are the championship years, where you’re getting to know what it’s all about at a competitive level and we have some very good players in all of our age groups.

"Obviously, we have a good strength in depth in this particular 1997-born age group but it is a programme which we’re all working hard to improve every year and it’s a programme which I think will produce players for the senior team.

"Hopefully the idea is that the five or six year plan will see a conveyor belt of players in the country for the England manager, whoever that may be at that time."

The Young Lions face Italy on Thursday, with the game kicking-off at 11am (BST), live on Eurosport.

By Nicholas Veevers Content Manager - FA Owned Channels