England U21s boss Aidy Boothroyd believes next summer’s U21 EURO Finals in Italy will be one of the best-ever tournaments at that level.
The Young Lions were drawn out alongside France, Croatia and Romania at last week’s draw in Bologna ahead of the tournament in June 2019.
- The Finals
- Italy, 16-30 June 2019
- Group A: Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium
- Group B: Germany, Denmark, Serbia, Austria
- Group C: England, France, Romania, Croatia
And having taken last campaign’s U21 squad to the semi-finals of the 2017 edition, Boothroyd believes 2019 will be another step up.
“When you reel off the teams in our group, we’ve got a team with the best defensive record in the tournament, a team that has a 100 per cent record and a team who won their group and are very difficult to play against at any level,” said the former Watford and Coventry City boss.
“So it’s never going to be easy when you get to this level and I think it’s probably going to be one of, if not the best, U21 tournaments we’ve had for a long time.
“It will be very difficult to get through but when you look at the other groups, everyone is in the same boat.”
Boothroyd’s squad sealed their place at the Finals after successfully coming through their qualifying group with a game to spare, after a run of 17 games without defeat since they lost on penalties against Germany in the aforementioned U21 EURO semi-final of 2017.
And he now wants to make sure his current crop, who also won last summer’s Toulon Tournament, will be heading to northern Italy fully prepared for their next challenge.
“If we’re going to keep our momentum going, it’s a group we’ll be looking to get out of and see where it takes us from there,” added Boothroyd.
“There’ll be no complacency on our part, we totally respect our opponents and we’ll do everything we can to beat them.
“When you start being mentioned as one of the favourites and you’re seeded in the draw, there is an expectation which comes with that.
“But it’s good because you need an opponent to bring the best out of you and these three teams certainly will and that’s even before we can hopefully get out of the group.
“It will be a tough one and every other team in the group will be thinking the same. Over the next six months we need to work on getting all of the details that give the lads the best chance of playing and winning.”
England’s Euro campaign will begin in Cesena on Tuesday 18 June when they face France before they are back at the same venue three days later to play Romania on Friday 21 June.
Their final group game against Croatia will be played in Serravalle, San Marino on Monday 24 June before the competition heads into the knockout stages.
“Tournament football is different to league football, to play-offs, to anything,” explained Boothroyd.
“It takes a bit of managing and there’s a lot of things to take into consideration.
“We’re in a position where we’re in a good run of form and have some good players and depth and England are going into tournaments as potential winners.
“That’s come from a lot of hard work over the last five years and we want to maintain that, keep it going and keep that standard up.
“It’s going to be a great tournament, very exciting and it’s another brilliant experience that will add to me as a coach.”