So once again, it’s heartbreak for England – and all in very familiar circumstances. On June 27th of last year, England’s senior team were humiliated against Iceland in the Euros. Seven years ago to this day, a Lampard screamer was denied against Germany despite it crossing the line by a good few miles.
It continued today, as England’s U21s could not replicate the success of their younger counterparts. England suffered in brutally traditional fashion losing to a spirited Germany team 4-3 on penalties.
On paper, though, it seems that England has a great future. The under 20s are world champions, and reaching the semi-finals isn’t so bad considering the strength of their German opposition, who will face either Spain or Italy in the final.
Questions will be raised, though, when many of these players inevitably do not get sufficient playing time to support their development. That’s why I’m going to go through the team that started today to have a look at where many of these young players, who so clearly have potential, could end up.
It’s going to be interesting, considering that many who have played in this year’s tournament are starters for their own respective teams whereas many of England’s players are often left in their side’s respective reserve teams – Including the likes of Hector Bellerin, Max Meyer, Saul Niguez and Gianluigi Donnarumma. Don’t forget champions League Final goal-scorer Sergio Asensio.
Bear in mind the starting formation was a 4-3-1-2.
GK: Jordan Pickford
Pickford seems to have his long-term future sorted. At 21, he very recently joined Everton from Sunderland for an eye-watering fee of £30million. He did have a respectable season at the club, who were finally relegated from the Premier League this year – a shining light in an otherwise dismal season for the club. He had a promising tournament, saving a penalty in the quarter-final match against Venezuela. It’s likely he’ll be starting between the sticks for Everton this coming season. He does need to work on his distribution, however. On multiple occasions this tournament alone the young goalkeeper looked somewhat anxious to use his feet when clearing the ball, giving the ball away unnecessarily.
LB: Ben Chillwell
Ben Chillwell has often been kept out of the Leicester side by Christian Fuchs, who no doubt deserves his starting position. Often, though, Chillwell has looked more than capable of holding his own in the left-back position. He produced a stunning performance against Atletico Madrid during Leicester’s brilliant cup run, and can launch in several accurate crosses. Given Fuchs’ age, he might be okay to claim that starting position in the coming seasons.
CB: Alfie Mawson
The departure of Ashley Williams from Swansea was good for a certain Alfie Mawson. The player has become a starting figure at Swansea, and has said he one day wants to captain England. He’s had a good tournament too, scoring a couple of important goals, and it looks like he could lead the defence again for his club next season. It’s also been rumoured that Spurs are interested in his availability.
CB: Calum Chambers
Calum Chambers is yet to really impress in an Arsenal shirt. He moved from Southampton in 2014 for around £17million, and was loaned to Middlesbrough this previous season. He made 25 league appearances for the club, who could not waive relegation with issues both at the back and up front. It’s obviously not all his fault, but it would be interesting to see whether he would make the starting line-up for Arsenal next season as the club have an aging and unreliable backline.
RB: Mason Holgate
The Everton man made a host of appearances last season following Seamus Colman’s horrific injury. He can play at either centre-back or right back, but regularly played as a right-sided centre-back a back three, or alternatively as a right-wing-back. With Colman’s long-term injury, it could be the time for the young defender to cement his position in the side, provided the club don’t spend on a replacement with its new source of cash.
CM: James Ward-Prowse
One of the squad’s best performers and its captain, James Ward-Prowse has been a starting player at Southampton ever since he was promoted from the club’s reserve side back in 2014. He was played on the right side of a midfield three instead of his preferred central role in the final. There ultimately isn’t much we don’t already know about the player, which is a testament to his consistency and quality in his role.
CM: Nathaniel Chalobah
There have been a few calls for Chelsea to bin plans to sign Monaco midfielder Tiemoué Bakayoko and instead give this young defensive midfielder a chance to take the reins alongside Kante in the centre. However, given Chelsea’s, let’s say, poor track-record of giving chances to youngsters, it could be do or die for Chalobah. He’s been on loan to a host of clubs, including a surprising trip to Napoli, a season at Reading, Burnley, Watford, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest. He played a fantastic tournament, protecting the back four with interceptions left and right and just provided general stability. He is in danger, though.
CM: Will Hughes
Will Hughes has a terrible beard. This hasn’t however taken away from the hype of the now-Watford midfielder, who moved very recently from Derby for nearly £7million. For years, he was touted as a future star, and was linked to clubs like Liverpool. The potential move was put off however by a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee, which ruled him out for six months. He has since recovered and played a fantastic tournament, often the star of the team. Having just been signed and considering his form, he should be on the starting books at Watford.
CAM: Lewis Baker
Lewis Baker is another wonderful Chelsea talent who looks like he won’t get the chance to make an impression under the rule of Antonio Conte. He finished the tournament alongside Demarai Gray as top scorer with 3 goals, and was a dignified success during his loan spell at Vitesse, scoring 10 goals and providing 4 assists in 30 games. He’s also two-footed. Despite his obvious quality, it doesn’t look good for the midfielder.
FORWARD: Demarai Gray
Gray was also a star of the tournament. He finished as England’s joint top scorer alongside Lewis Baker, providing 3 goals. Despite making 30 league appearances for Leicester last season, most those were off the bench, starting only 9 times. He’s rapid, but does need to add a solid final product to his game. He’s got competition no doubt, with Marc Albrighton, who seemingly turned into Lionel Messi during the club’s stunning Champion’s League run, and Riyad Mahrez whose new career as a vanishing magician took hold throughout various parts of the season. He looks likely to depart this season anyway, so it might be time for Gray to secure that starting position.
Forward: Tammy Abraham
Another Chelsea player. Tammy Abraham is only 19, so it might be a couple of years before he reaches the first team. That said, he’s been rumoured to sign a new contract worth £50,000 per week before heading out on loan to Swansea, according to the Telegraph. He scored 26 goals in 48 appearances last season on loan at Bristol City, and Chelsea have stated they’re not interested in selling him. He did have a poor tournament for his standards, however, only scoring one goal and missing his penalty in the semi-final shootout to Germany. Chelsea are clearly invested in his future – hopefully it goes to plan.