Sunday 21st June – 17:00 – Andruv Stadion
England Under-21s are looking to avoid a third successive group stage exit in the European Championships as they face Sweden on Sunday evening. Gareth Southgate’s side kicked off their campaign with defeat as Portugal ran out 1-0 winners in their Group B opener. Sweden, meanwhile, stunned Italy in their first game, coming from behind in the second half to grab all three points with a late Kiese Thelin penalty despite having a man sent off. The Young Lions will be eliminated if they fail to win and Portugal avoid defeat against Italy in the other group game. It would be huge embarrassment for England, as they were second favourites to lift the trophy at the start of the tournament, whilst Sweden were huge outsiders, with many people predicting them to get no points in Group B following an erratic qualifying campaign.
England Team News
- John Stones was cleared by England doctors to train after suspected concussion before the tournament opener, but medical protocol rules him out of this game too.
- Saido Berahino withdrew from the squad just before the game against Portugal, so Benik Afobe has taken his place.
- Gareth Southgate started quite defensively on Thursday, but with a goals a must against Sweden, Alex Pritchard and Danny Ings, who offer more pace to the side, could come in.
The Key Battle: Isaac Kiese Thelin vs Liam Moore
Isaac Kiese Thelin is your Swedish version of Harry Kane when it comes to storylines: He’s shot from nowhere and made a big impact, particularly in the national set-up.
Already the holder of five senior caps, the Bordeaux striker been likened to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and his strong frame and pronounced technical skill set do justify the comparison.
It will be the job of Leicester City centre-back Liam Moore to mark Kiese Thelin, as he is a similar build to the Swede, meaning he has the best chance of keeping him quiet.
Moore is standing in for the injured John Stones, so will want to prove to Gareth Southgate that he deserves to keep his place, with the Everton man likely to be ready to face Italy on Wednesday.
Last Meeting: England 4-0 Sweden (5th February 2013)
Two goals from Thomas Ince – his first at Under 21 level – against Sweden in Walsall helped a dominant England team set a new national record of seven successive victories. The outcome of the friendly was never in doubt from the moment the winger struck after ten minutes. Jonjo Shelvey doubled the lead for Stuart Pearce’s side, before Ince turned in the rebound after Josh McEachran’s 41st minute penalty had been saved by Andreas Linde. Substitute Connor Wickham rounded off the scoring with 13 minutes remaining on a pitch that is perhaps one of the worst the Under 21s have ever played on.
The Sweden Lowdown
- Manager: Hakan Ericson
- Captain: Oscar Hiljemark
- Best Euro Performance: Runners-Up 1992
Star Man – John Guidetti
As a soon-to-be free agent, John Guidetti will be gunning for goals in a bid to impress potential suitors. He’s already bagged one so far in the tournament, scoring the equaliser against Sweden on Thursday. The striker has two caps at senior level, but is a regular for the Under 21s and a prolific scorer too, getting 11 goals in 19 games. Guidetti spent most of 2014-15 on loan at Celtic, making a great start scoring 10 times in 11 matches, before a much less impressive second half of the season. The talent is clearly there from a man who was once one of Europe’s hottest prospects, so England need to be wary of the danger he could, but not necessarily cause.
Like with Portugal, Sweden have a huge amount of experience in their squad, with 11 players having already won a senior cap, the most out of all the teams at the tournament. Perhaps another advantage that Sweden have is that they have a number of players with a point to prove. There’s the aforementioned Guidetti, Branimir Hrgota wants more playing time for Borussia Monchengladbach and captain Oscar Hiljemark is hunting for an expanded role with PSV.
Despite finishing top of their qualifying group, Sweden lost 5-1 to Poland on the way to doing so, showing that there are cracks in the side. Coach Hakan Ericson is a controversial figure and has fallen out with a few players during his stint as manager. Mattias Johansson, a player who would have been a key player and starter in the team, is chief among those upset and was not selected for the squad.
My Prediction: Sweden 0-1 England
You would hope that Gareth Southgate has really fired his team up for this game, knowing that going out of the tournament would be unacceptable. If his motivation works, then England should come out all guns blazing, but Sweden will be confident following their victory over Italy. This should mean that the match is close, but hopefully the Young Lions scrape a win thanks to a Harry Kane goal.