England men’s under-21s will have no shortage of experience when they take on the UEFA U21 EURO Finals group stage next week.
The Young Lions head to Slovenia with a 23-strong squad, including the likes of Mason Greenwood, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah.
Aidy Boothroyd’s team face games against Croatia, Portugal and Switzerland in their group, with only two of the four progressing to this summer’s knockout stage.
Ready for the #U21EURO finals 🙌— England (@England) March 15, 2021
Introducing the 23 players heading to Slovenia with our #YoungLions this month: pic.twitter.com/0wAU1MYWYd
And Arsenal forward Smith Rowe is one of three players in the MU21 squad for the first time, along with PSV Eindhoven’s Noni Madueke and goalkeeper Josh Griffiths.
Both Hudson-Odoi and Greenwood provide some senior squad experience in Aidy Boothroyd’s group while Nketiah, who holds the England MU21 goalscoring record with 16 goals in 14 matches, is another notable name.
Lloyd Kelly and Ryan Sessegnon are the only survivors from the 2019 finals in Italy, with Sessegnon joined in the squad by his twin brother Steven.
Goalkeepers: Josef Bursik (Stoke City), Josh Griffiths (Cheltenham Town, loan from West Bromwich Albion), Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United)
Defenders: Max Aarons (Norwich City), Ben Godfrey (Everton), Marc Guehi (Swansea City, loan from Chelsea), Lloyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth), Ryan Sessegnon (Hoffenheim, loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Steven Sessegnon (Bristol City, loan from Fulham), Japhet Tanganga (Tottenham Hotspur), Ben Wilmot (Watford)
Midfielders: Todd Cantwell (Norwich City)*, Tom Davies (Everton), Ebere Eze (Crystal Palace), Conor Gallagher (West Bromwich Albion, loan from Chelsea), Curtis Jones (Liverpool), Dwight McNeil (Burnley), Oliver Skipp (Norwich City, loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
Attackers: Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)**, Noni Madueke (PSV Eindhoven), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal)
* Replaces Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)
** Withdrawn injured
This year's U21 EURO sees the group stage and knockout stage held separately, rather than as just one summer finals.
The group stage involves 16 nations between 24-31 March with the four group winners and four runners-up qualifying for the knockout phase, which will be jointly hosted by Hungary and Slovenia from 31 May to 6 June 2021.
“I’m excited by this group - not just in their ability but also their togetherness and team spirit - and know they will do everything they can to make the country proud," said Boothroyd following the squad announcement.
“I’m grateful to Gareth for his support with what we are trying to achieve, and also to the clubs for recognising the importance of these finals.
“We want to win every time we play and will do all we can to reach the knockout stage – but this is also a crucial opportunity for providing valuable experience on and off the pitch that will help the players, their clubs and England in future.”
With Europe’s elite nations taking part, the Young Lions will ultimately be aiming to become the first England side to lift the trophy in 37 years.
Despite England appearing in a record eighth successive U21 EURO finals, they’ve only made it out of the group stage on three occasions in that run.
Boothroyd added: “History tells us that this competition is about as competitive as it gets and we know we’ll have to be at our best.
“Because we are in the middle of the domestic season, everyone will have to hit the ground running as soon as they come together but we’re ready for the challenge. We can’t wait to get started.”
All England matches will be televised by Sky Sports as follows, with kick-off times not clashing with the senior team fixtures on the same days.
• Thursday 25 March, 2pm (UK time) – England v Switzerland, Koper
• Sunday 28 March, 8pm (UK time) – Portugal v England, Ljubljana
• Wednesday 31 March, 5pm (UK time) – Croatia v England, Koper