Tough draw for England


Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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England will face Italy, Portugal and Sweden in the group stage of next summer’s European Under-21 Championship finals in the Czech Republic.

Gareth Southgate’s seeded side were pitched into battle with the Italians, the Portuguese – whom they play in a friendly at Turf Moor on November 13 – and the Swedes in Group B in the draw, which was performed by former Czech star Pavel Nedved in Prague on Thursday afternoon.

The host nation, the top seed in Group A, will face Germany, Denmark and Serbia in the competition, which takes place in Prague, Olomouc and Uherske Hradiste between June 17 and 30.

Italy are five times winners of the competition and runners-up in 2013, when they were beaten by Spain in Israel, while Portugal lost in the 1994 final two years after Sweden had done the same.

England are twice winners, but their last success came three decades ago in 1984.

Southgate’s team dropped only two points in qualification, courtesy of a 1-1 draw in Finland in September last year, winning their remaining nine games, with West Brom striker Saido Berahino scoring 10 times on the way.

Having topped Group One, they booked their place in the finals with home and away play-off victories over Croatia.

But Portugal boasted a perfect record, collecting a maximum 24 points from their eight qualifiers and winning both legs of their play-off against Holland, the only nation to do so.

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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