Squawka Analysis

Holding to Rashford: The best possible XI England could field at the U21 European Championships

Holding to Rashford: The best possible XI England could field at the U21 European Championships

The UEFA European Under-21 Championships kicks off tonight, and to the surprise of no one, England have sent an under-strength squad.

England have sent quality players, but the best that are eligible for this tournament aren’t among them. This could have been a great chance for England to capitalise on the momentum of their FIFA u20 World Cup win last week and really embed a winning mentality for the next generation.

After all sending the best available talent worked for Spain, who won the tournament back-to-back in 2011 and 2013, and the same for Germany in 2009. It teaches the players how to cope with tournaments (something England sorely need to learn), and breeds a winning mentality if they’re victorious.

The German example is the one to follow here. While Vicente Del Bosque didn’t bring through any of those young Spaniards to extend Spain’s dominant era, Low used his youth well. Of the 11 players to line-up in that 2009 final, six went on to be named in the starting XI for the World Cup final in 2014 (though only five played as Sami Khedira was injured in the warm-up).

With that in mind, what would be the strongest possible side that Aidy Boothroyd could send out tonight, if he had the luxury of calling on his best players? Remember that anyone born on or after January 1st 1994 can play, it doesn’t matter if they’re 23 now. So what’s the XI? Read on and find out!

Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford

Age: 23

Senior Caps: 0

In the squad? Yes

The 30 million pound man has split opinion across the nation harder than Brexit. Is he worth the massive transfer fee Everton are paying, or isn’t he? What no one can deny is that he is definitely a quality shot-stopper and the future of England (that he has no senior caps is the problem here).

Centre-back: Calum Chambers

Age: 22

Senior Caps: 3

In the squad? Yes

Like Dani Carvajal, Chambers is proof that growing a beard improves your life. Blossomed at Boro away from Arsene Wenger’s defensive chicanery, Chambers heads into the tournament in a good vein of form despite Boro’s relegation. Chambers is also an u21 regular.

Centre-back: John Stones

Age: 23

Senior Caps: 18

In the squad? No

England’s best young defender is nowhere near this squad, despite the fact that he could probably use a summer tournament away to help him improve. Quality isn’t Stones’ issue, it’s mental focus, and tournaments always bring things into sharp focus. Alas, he’ll spend his summer instagramming his face.

Centre-back: Rob Holding

Age: 21

Senior Caps: 0

In the squad? Yes

The New Calum Chambers better hope he gets a loan move away from Arsene Wenger’s defensive chicanery, lest he fall victim to the same curse that plagued Chambers. Nevertheless, as things stand Holding is a superb young defender and one hopes he will start for England this summer.

Right-wing: Nathan Redmond

Age: 23

Senior Caps: 1

In the squad? Yes

An England u21 mainstay, Nathan Redmond would here be deployed in a wide creator role sort of like he was at Saints later in the season. He’s got quality, pace and penetration and is probably destined for greater things than Southampton (sorry Saints fans).

Central midfield: Eric Dier

Age: 23

Senior Caps: 18

In the squad? No

Has struggled of late, but Eric Dier’s quality cannot be questioned. In fact a summer spent bossing midfield in a tournament could have been just what he needs to get back on the horse. Yet he will play no part this summer and instead hope he magically plays well again when Spurs walk up Wembley Way in August (well, September now).

Central midfield: James Ward-Prowse

Age: 22

Senior Caps: 1

In the squad? Yes

The ticking heartbeat of the u21 midfield, James Ward-Prowse is ever improving as a footballer. He’s already in the squad and were he surrounded by more talented team-mates (especially in attack) perhaps would have found his own performances elevated so playmakers so often do.

Left-wing: Ben Chilwell

Age: 20

Senior Caps: 0

In the squad? Yes

Leicester’s flying left-back is the second youngest member of this XI and will be hoping to make a name for himself at the tournament. He’s in the squad, so will have every chance to do just that.

Right-forward: Raheem Sterling

Age: 22

Senior Caps: 31

In the squad? No

The mesmeric Raheem Sterling is a future world-beater. Of that there can be no doubt. With the right team-mates and support he could potentially lead England to glory, something that would have been made all the more easy had he been given tournament experience here in 2017.

Left-forward: Dele Alli

Age: 21

Senior Caps: 18

In the squad? No

England’s Thomas Müller is an attacking phenomenon, but thus far has struggled in knockout football when the pressure is really on. Now imagine if he could cultivate the kind of steely big tournament mentality that the actual Thomas Müller has? Of course the ideal practice would be to play in something like the u21 Euros, but of course he wasn’t selected.

Striker: Marcus Rashford

Age: 19

Senior Caps: 9

In the squad? No

There’s quite simply no excuse for Marcus Rashford to not be at this tournament. He’s England’s most exciting young forward and he didn’t exactly play all that much thanks to José Mourinho (nor will he play all that much next season once Mourinho signs his no. 9) so he should be leading the line here. He showed at Euro 2016 (albeit briefly) that he has the mentality for big tournaments, so unleash him here!

And as a change of pace imagine England switching to two-up-front and deploying Rashford next to Tammy Abraham? The future of England’s attack could be forged right here. Instead, Abraham and Rashford will remain strangers for years until they both come off the bench for the last 17 minutes of a Euro 2020 qualifier against Moldova.

Formation: 3-4-2-1

Ben Chilwell

calum chambers

Dele Alli

Eric Dier

James Ward-Prowse

John Stones

Jordan Pickford

Marcus Rashford

Nathan Redmond

Raheem Sterling

Rob Holding

England